Education Grant Focuses on Producing STEM Teachers
October 06, 2011 | NEWS@UTEP
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently announced that The University of Texas at El Paso will be part of a nearly $13 million, five-year grant that aims to attract recent college graduates, mid-career professionals, and early retirees to teach high-need subjects to middle and high school students.
UTEP education and engineering faculty members will start in early October to develop innovative plans to recruit, train, place and provide professional development to a select group of students who want to become science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers in rural and urban school districts.
The University's team will be led by Darlene Brown, Ed.D., director of UTEP's Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ATCP). The team will collaborate with El Paso Community College, area school districts, and other regional districts across the state that will participate via online courses.
Among the goals of UTEP's Taking the LEAP (Local Educational Agencies Program) are to create strategies to entice individuals from traditionally underrepresented minority groups, including women, to become STEM teachers, and a new trans-disciplinary teaching model that will prepare teachers to be certified in those subjects, especially math and engineering. The UTEP group also plans to develop a comprehensive post-ATCP plan to assist and support teachers as they start their new careers.
"We plan to change the face of teacher education in the Upper Rio Grande region," Brown said.
The DOE's Transition to Teaching Program chose 30 institutions and agencies in 16 states and American Samoa to participate in the project. UTEP, which will receive $3.2 million of the grant, was the only Texas university selected.
The importance of STEM education in today's society cannot be overstated, according to education and industry experts who recently lamented the lack of STEM graduates needed to fill 21st century jobs. A recently released report from the U.S. Department of Commerce stated that the nation's future as a global leader in technology and innovation will be enhanced after there is an increase in the number of STEM workers from underrepresented groups – especially blacks, women and Hispanics, who are becoming a larger percentage of the workforce. Experts agree education is the way to achieve this.
The DOE expects about 4,800 new teachers will be certified through the program by 2016. Up to 250 of them will come from UTEP, Brown said. These educators must teach at least three years in high-needs schools – those where at least 30 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that talented teachers come from all walks of life, and what they learn in the private sector enhances their work in the classrooms and their interactions with students.
"These grants will encourage more interested professionals to transition to teaching and increase our cadre of teachers for schools that need them the most," he said.