CU-Boulder Awarded Grant To Help Improve Math And Science Teacher Education

November 15, 2007 •

The University of Colorado at Boulder has received a grant of up to $2.4 million to improve teacher education in math and science following a nationwide competition that included submissions from more than 50 universities.

CU-Boulder's grant is one of 12 being awarded by the National Math and Science Initiative to implement programs modeled after UTeach, a highly successful math and science teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at Austin.

"The UTeach grant will allow us to build on already significant collaborations between the School of Education and math and science departments," said CU-Boulder education Dean Lorrie Shepard. "In particular, it will allow us to tailor our teacher education courses to focus on curricular reforms and pedagogical insights specific to math and science teaching."

The grant will be paid over a five-year period and could total $3.4 million if CU-Boulder successfully raises an additional $1 million as part of a matching grant fundraising challenge.

Through the Colorado Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Learning Assistant project, CU-Boulder has been working aggressively for more than five years to improve undergraduate math and science classes and to recruit and train future K-12 science teachers.

"We have spent the last five years transforming our mathematics and science courses and this grant is our first opportunity to transform our School of Education teacher certification program in math and science," said Assistant Professor Valerie Otero of CU-Boulder's School of Education, who will co-direct the CUTeach program. "We're recruiting the best students into teaching through our learning assistant program, and this will help us provide them with the best experience possible."

The grant will be used to implement the CUTeach program, which will dovetail with existing CU-Boulder programs like the learning assistant program. The grant also will help CU-Boulder faculty work more often with master teachers, who are former expert high school teachers, according to Otero.

"It's clear to me that CUTeach is going to reaffirm and extend our commitment to generating great teachers and hopefully great teaching in the sciences at CU-Boulder," said CU-Boulder biology Professor Michael Klymkowsky, who is co-directing the program with Otero.

The UTeach program was established in 1997 at UT-Austin as a new and improved way to introduce undergraduate math and science majors to secondary school teaching. By offering compact degree plans, early teaching experiences and financial assistance for undergraduate students, UTeach raises the quantity and quality of math, science and computer science teachers in secondary schools.

UTeach certifies more than 70 students every year at UT-Austin, and more than 90 percent of these graduates immediately go on to teach in their respective fields. In addition, more than 80 percent of these graduates continue teaching four years after starting, compared with only 60 percent nationally.

"I have been impressed by the tremendous results the UTeach program has had in Texas, and I look forward to the great outcomes that will result from expanding this program across the nation," said Tom Luce, president and CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative.

The National Math and Science Initiative is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help the United States maintain its global leadership position in technological innovation. ExxonMobil contributed an initial $125 million to the organization's efforts, and additional donors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

"As a company that employs 14,000 engineers and scientists, ExxonMobil knows how important it is to provide the best education and training possible for our nation's young people," said Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. "We are proud to be part of this important effort to begin to address the critical shortage of math and science teachers in our schools."

The grants are part of the UTeach Institute, which was created to expand and replicate the UTeach program at universities in Texas and across the United States.

In addition to the grants, the institute has developed numerous resources to help in replication efforts nationwide, including a UTeach operations manual and a framework for collecting demographic data and conducting evaluations. The UTeach Institute will also be engaged in building a community of faculty and master teachers who will instruct UTeach courses to facilitate the sharing of successful practices.

"UTeach has proven to be a very successful model for preparing our next-generation science and math teachers, and we're very excited to have the opportunity to replicate the program at universities across the United States," said Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT-Austin. "The more the program spreads, the more fine teachers we will be producing to inspire and educate our nation's children to discover and create new science and technology for the future."

"CU-Boulder is in an excellent position to take on a project like this," Otero said. "Our faculty in math, science and education are enthusiastic and have already built a community around excellence in math and science education. We have strong support from our chancellor, provost and deans."

For more information about the UTeach Institute visit www.uteach-institute.org, and for more information about the National Math and Science Initiative visit www.nationalmathandscience.org.

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