We Teach MO STEM: Proven Quality and Innovation in STEM Education
Starting this year, UMSL students seeking a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and science can choose to expand their future career opportunities to include teacher certification at the high school level. The College of Arts and Sciences (CoAS) and the College of Education (COE) have partnered to initiate a program to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teacher preparation called We Teach MO STEM, modeled after the highly successful UTeach programs developed at the University of Texas-Austin.
“Our goal is to recruit STEM majors who like the idea of teaching, but who either cannot afford the cost or the extra time it now takes for teacher certification,” said Chuck Granger, professor of biology and education and Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Distinguished Teaching Professor and co-director of the We Teach MO STEM program.
Currently there are three routes for secondary STEM teacher certification at UMSL. Students may receive either certification by obtaining a B.S. in Education with a near major in the STEM subject matter, or by majoring in the subject matter with a B.A. in the College of Arts & Sciences plus teacher certification through the College of Education. Either way it takes 148 semester credit hours. A post-baccalaureate pathway provides either certification requiring 46 semester hours in education or with a masters’ degree requiring 60 semester hours.
Unique in our state, the We Teach MO STEM program will offer degree plans for a B.S. degree that includes teaching certification in biology, chemistry, physics or mathematics by the respective academic units that will allow graduation with a total of 130 credit hours — 113 of which will be within the College of Arts and Sciences. The new, We Teach MO STEM pathway requires 18 fewer credit hours than the other two pathways to teacher certification now available to undergraduate students at UMSL.
We Teach MO STEM is based on the UTeach model which has a 15-year track record of developing, testing, implementing, assessing and revising curricula and strategies that have produced a highly effective STEM teacher education program. It has increased the production of secondary teachers with B.S. degrees in the subject matter areas who will teach with state-of-the-art pedagogy founded on student-centered, hands-on inquiry methodology. More than 80% of UTeach graduates are still teaching after five years which is more than 25% higher than the national average. In addition, 50% of their graduates find success teaching in economically-disadvantaged schools.
The need for more outstanding STEM teachers could not be more critical. Current estimates are that 32% of secondary math and 19% of science teachers are teaching outside of their undergraduate major or minor (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009). In their 2007 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Institute of Medicine recommends the UTeach model for increasing the number of STEM teachers across the nation. Their study emphasizes the global challenge: “Although many people assume that the United States will always be a world leader in science and technology, this may not continue to be the case inasmuch as great minds and ideas exist throughout the world. We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost—and the difficulty of recovering a lead once lost, if indeed it can be regained at all.”
Missouri and St. Louis in particular must keep up with the demand for certified STEM teachers. There are 4,850 STEM teachers in the State of Missouri with a turnover rate of 6.4 percent indicating the state must produce 310 new secondary STEM teachers each year. The turnover rate for low economic areas is 16% (National Center for Education Statistics). The St. Louis Public Schools alone need at least 12 new secondary science teachers and 14 math teachers each year. Currently UMSL produces an average of only six science teachers and four math teachers per year.
“UMSL has always insisted on producing STEM educators who have a strong emphasis on content knowledge,” Granger said. “But when we looked at the data last year, the actual number of undergraduates with a major in a STEM discipline who obtain a teaching certificate was essentially nil with only two such degrees. And the College of Education issued only 10 certificates in the STEM area. This leaves considerable headroom for improvements and a large untapped population of STEM majors who could benefit the secondary teaching profession as well as give themselves an important career option.”
Student interest is definitely there. A survey taken last year in the STEM senior exit seminar courses and one beginning introductory course in biology showed that a significant number of the seniors in each discipline (31% Biology, 38% Math, 6% Physics, 15% Chemistry and 15% Biochemistry) would have definitely chosen to participate in a major/teaching certificate program such as UTeach. More than half, 54%, of the freshmen in Introductory Biology said they would like an opportunity to participate in a UTeach type program.
“The time is ripe for this to happen,” Granger said. “We are currently hiring a master teacher who will be key to recruiting students and implementing the structured classroom teaching experiences that students will regularly have throughout the program and their final semester in high school apprenticeships.”
Initial partner school districts for the program are St. Louis Public Schools, Normandy, Ferguson/Florissant, Francis Howell, Pattonville and Riverview Gardens. The program is slated to begin this fall for freshmen, and plans include coordinating with community colleges in the near future.
We Teach MO STEM courses are designed to develop deep understanding of the content that is most important to future secondary STEM teachers, and to build strong connections between mathematics and science and between educational theory and practice. UMSL will provide an undergraduate resident scholarship for one credit hour in each of the first two semesters for We Teach MO STEM participants.
Granger joins Keith Miller, Orthwein Endowed Professor of Lifelong Learning, and Haiyan Cai, associate professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science as co-directors of the UMSL We Teach MO STEM program. Nicolle von der Heyde, a Ph.D. Student in Science Education, was chosen as the Master Teacher for the We Teach MO STEM STEM program because of her success as a science teacher and her research in teacher preparation. She will be teaching the introductory methods courses and supervise pre-service internships.
For more information about We Teach MO STEM, please email Chuck Granger at firstname.lastname@example.org