BULL’S-EYE: PROGRAMS TARGETING MATH,
SCIENCE TEACHER SHORTAGE MAY GET BOOST
National Math and Science Initiative Names UH
as Potential Recipient of $2.4 Million Grant to Replicate UTeach
HOUSTON, July 17, 2007 – Painting a target on the math and
science teacher shortage, the National Math and Science Initiative
(NMSI) has invited the University of Houston to take aim at winning
up to $2.4 million to foster the next generation of teachers in
NMSI, based in Dallas, wants 10 universities to replicate UTeach,
an effective science and mathematics teacher-training program established
at The University of Texas at Austin. UH is among 29 higher-education
institutions that made the cut from 52 higher-learning establishments
across the country vying for the opportunity to receive NMSI funding
over a five-year period to establish their own successful math and
science teacher-training programs.
UH already has a head start with its teachHOUSTON teacher-preparation
program that is modeled after the successful UTeach format and is
the pilot program for future replications outside the UT system.
To help urban schools attract and retain qualified personnel by
immersing aspiring math and science educators in public school classrooms
early in their college careers, teachHOUSTON began this spring with
With teachHOUSTON, students begin in their freshman year, taking
20 hours of education courses during the next four years to graduate
not only with a degree in a math or science discipline, but also
with a teaching certificate. All-too-often, students wait until
they become upperclassmen before deciding to earn a teaching certificate
and typically have difficulty fitting the 18 required education
hours into their schedules, so some potential teachers graduate
without certification. The teachHOUSTON program is trying to break
“Their exposure to a school setting from the outset is important
to the initiative’s success and sets it apart from other teacher
certification programs,” said Jeff Morgan, chair of the department
of mathematics in UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
(NSM). “Getting the field-based experience early and often
is really key to this program. We don’t want them to get out
there and find out they’re really not where they want to be.”
At UH, the College of Education and NSM are collaborating in teachHOUSTON,
together with the Spring Branch and Fort Bend independent school
districts. This fall the Houston Independent School District is
scheduled to come on board, and other districts have indicated they
are interested in becoming partners.
“Few colleges of education and science and math at other universities
collaborate as much as those at UH,” said Robert Wimpelberg,
dean of the College of Education. “The teachHOUSTON program
is a natural extension of the things we already do so well together.”
Intensive mentoring is another program feature. The would-be teachers
receive mentoring from the beginning – at the university from
a master teacher and in the school districts from an assigned mentor
teacher. They will continue to be mentored after they graduate,
“From the first semester, a student works with mentors in
the district and teaches a couple of lesson plans,” he said.
“People who want to teach want to teach now. Their passion
starts to wane if they have to wait four years.”
Susan Williams, an associate professor holding joint appointments
in UH’s education and NSM colleges, is the first master teacher.
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics
and a doctorate in education in curriculum and instruction, with
a specialization in mathematics education. After 10 years teaching
math in middle and high school, she joined UH 15 years ago.
“Williams represents the type of mentor we believe will help
prepare highly qualified educators,” Morgan said. “We
really want to turn out the best teachers possible, not just ones
who are certified.”
Williams is tasked with recruiting freshmen and sophomores into
the program and taught the introductory “Teaching Mathematics
and Science” course this spring. Next fall, they’ll
take another one-hour education course, with an A or B in either
course earning a student reimbursement from the university for the
“These introductory classes let students try out teaching
to come see if they like it,” Williams said. “Where
else can you try out a career for free?”
Additionally, Williams assigned each student an elementary school
mentor in one of the participating school districts, where the students
completed five assignments during the spring semester in that teacher’s
classroom. Next fall, students will be assigned a mentor in a middle
school and one in high school the following semester. In the fourth
semester, students will choose the grade level for their field experience.
“Research shows the more field experience they have, the
more prepared students are to work in a classroom,” she said.
“School administrators recognize that when students begin
preparing to teach as undergraduates, they receive more thorough
preparation and are retained at a higher rate than teachers from
alternative certification programs.”
Morgan and Williams set a goal of 20 students for the first teachHOUSTON
group, targeting those in computer science, geosciences, engineering
and bioengineering, as well as those from traditional K-12 science
areas. Morgan plans to add students to the program each semester,
eventually expanding it to 375 students participating by the fourth
year of the program. UTeach has more than 470 participants and has
doubled the number of UT-Austin students graduating with math and
science teacher certification. Compared to a 60 percent national
four-year retention rate, 80 percent of UTeach graduates who became
teachers four years ago are still teaching.
Should UH be selected for one of the NMSI grants, they will be
provided course materials, operations manuals, consultation and
training from The UTeach Institute. The first round of grants will
be awarded in October 2007.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research
and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers
and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate,
civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university
in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and
service with more than 35,000 students.
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