UCSC wins NSF grant to train more math and science teachers

Regional schools in need of qualified math and science teachers will benefit from a $750,000 grant to the University of California, Santa Cruz, from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholars Program. The grant will fund scholarships for UCSC students pursuing teaching careers in math and science.

"There is an ongoing need for highly qualified math and physical science teachers in California schools, and this grant allows us to help more students follow that career path," said Gretchen Andreasen, director of UCSC's Cal Teach Resource Center, who will manage the Noyce Scholars Program.

"This is a great opportunity for our science and math students who want to become teachers," added Stephen Thorsett, dean of physical and biological sciences at UCSC. "Our goal is to place highly skilled new teachers into high-need school districts on the Central Coast."

Starting in 2009, the program will prepare 32 math and science teachers over the next four years for jobs in three partner school districts: Gonzalez Unified, Pajaro Valley Unified, and Santa Cruz City Schools.

"With this program, we hope to increase the number of locally educated math teachers in our district and reduce our overseas recruiting," said Liz Modena, superintendent of Gonzalez Unified School District.

In addition to the school districts, the partners in the program include UCSC's Education Department, the Cal Teach Program, the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, and the Baskin School of Engineering.

"Preparing great teachers is a team effort that involves faculty from the sciences, engineering, and education, as well as the school districts where the students do their internships and get started in their teaching careers," Thorsett said.

The scholarships will support students in the UCSC Education Department's masters credential program, which leads to an M.A. in education and a California teaching credential. Students who majored in math, science, or engineering and participated in the Cal Teach Program as UCSC undergraduates will be eligible for the scholarships. The scholars will be required to work in a high-need school district for at least two years after they graduate.

"NSF's goal for this program is to recruit people who might not otherwise have considered a teaching career, and that's a goal of our CalTeach program as well--to increase the pool of qualified teachers," Andreasen said.

Most of the project funding ($623,000) will be used for the scholarships. A portion of the grant will also support research led by Lora Bartlett, assistant professor of education, to investigate issues related to the project such as teacher retention. The grant will also fund programs and activities to support the Noyce Scholars in their first two years of teaching.

Thorsett will direct the new program together with Michael Isaacson, acting dean of the Baskin School of Engineering, and Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of social sciences. The cross-disciplinary effort will involve faculty in 10 departments at UCSC.

Note to reporters: You may contact Gretchen Andreasen at (831) 459-2484 or gha@ucsc.edu.