With shortages of math and science teachers continuing across the nation, some nonprofit organizations are stepping in to help bring more people who can teach these subjects into the classroom. Aspiring teachers still seeking a concentration should be aware of funding and support opportunities available.
Preliminary figures for 2007 show a considerable shortage of math and science teachers in every state, according to B.J. Bryant, the executive director of the American Association of Employment in Education.
Big companies that pay well tend to recruit students who graduate from rigorous math or science programs, Bryant explains. Despite an abundance of teaching opportunities in these fields, salaries aren’t competitive enough to persuade enough talented graduates to become teachers.
In response to the shortage, several nonprofit programs are launching innovative ways to attract new math and science teachers to the field.
Math for America
Math for America, a private nonprofit organization, has recruited, trained, and retained over 100 Fellows to teach in secondary public schools in New York City. The program is intended to bring new people into careers in teaching by offering support throughout a five-year commitment, which includes one year for training and four years of teaching. According to MfA, the lengthy application requirements filter out anyone who is not dedicated to becoming a teacher.
After finding that the first four years of teaching are the most challenging and where rates of retention are the lowest, MfA came up with a plan to entice and support beginning teachers. “Incentives keep teachers,” said Lee Umphrey, director of communications and public affairs for MfA.
Under the program, which is primarily funded by the Simons Foundation, MfA pays a portion of each fellow’s tuition for their one-year graduate program, while its partner universities absorb the rest. In addition to the tuition, all fellows receive a $90,000 stipend over five years on top of their salary.
On top of the money awarded to participants by the program, they receive a New York City teacher’s salary, which is approximately $50,000 for new teachers with master’s degrees, according to MfA.
Other incentives of the program include MfA Corp activities, such as one-on-one mentoring with experienced math teachers and monthly professional development sessions.
As a result of its success in New York, MfA recently announced it was expanding to San Diego this coming school year. The group is currently recruiting next year’s participants, who will start their graduate programs in June of 2008. Information for application deadlines and the exam required for applicants can be found on the MfA Web site, mathforamerica.org.
National Science Foundation Teaching Fellowship
For people looking for funding to teach science, the America COMPETES Act that became law in early August includes provisions to create the National Science Foundation Teaching Fellowship. The program, which has been directly modeled after the MfA, provides funding for its fellows to study NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curricula. Much like the MfA, after completing their graduate program and certification, participants will likely teach for four years while receiving a salary and a stipend. Unlike MfA, which is privately funded, NSF will receive government funding, according to Umphrey.
The initial goal is to improve communication, teaching, collaboration, and team-building skills for the fellows while strengthening relationships between higher education and school districts, according to the NSF. Another purpose for the program is to expand professional development and seek new and exciting ways to teach science. “Once congress appropriates funds, and it looks like they will, the program will start accepting applications,” said Umphrey.
National Science Teachers Association has also designed a fellowship program to encourage new methods of teaching with a hands-on approach through e-mentoring and Web-based career development. The NSTA New Science Teachers Academy, funded by Amgen, is a professional development program aiming to strengthen quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence, and improve teacher content knowledge.
The two-tiered initiative includes a fellow program, available in select states, and associate fellow program, available nationwide. Both programs feature a yearlong immersion in science-related activities, professional development opportunities, and a fully funded trip to NSTA’s national conference, according to NSTA.
To be an NSTA fellow, applicants must be going into their second or third year of teaching. Associate fellows are mostly first- or second-year teachers, but some aspiring teachers are accepted while they look for a job. Applications for the 2007-2008 school year are due Sept. 30. To find out more about the program, go to www.nsta.org.