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Progress on Preparing More Undergraduates with STEM Degrees and Teaching Credentials

A commitment to President Obama's call to action to train high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math teachers is well ahead of schedule.

On July 24th 2009, President Obama announced the Race to the Top competition to drive systemic reform and innovation in American education. In addition to this substantial Federal investment, the President called for a larger all-hands-on-deck effort, where non-profits, foundations, universities, states and others worked together to build programs that can be easily replicated.

One example the President used was UTeach, a program that allows undergraduate students to receive both a degreein a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field and a teaching certificate while providing early and intensive field experiences. “Everyone has a role to play in training these teachers,” the President said. “So universities and non-profit organizations can launch programs like UTeach at UT Austin that allows aspiring teachers to get a math or science degree and teaching certificate at the same time.”

In 2010, responding to the President’s call to action, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), along with a broad set of corporate, philanthropic,and state partners, committed to bringing the UTeach model to 20 university campuses, allowing over 4,500 STEM teachers to be trained by 2015.

Last week, NMSI announced that their commitment to the President is well ahead of schedule.  They have already expanded the UTeach model to reach their 30th university campus – Towson University, near Baltimore, Md. NMSI also announced that they now have over 5,500 STEM undergraduates enrolled in a UTeach program. NMSI expects that these teachers, which will have both strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge, will improve STEM teaching for 4 million students in this decade alone.

The UTeach announcement also serves as a promising case-study for the steps needed to take successful programs to scale. As outlined in a paper by NMSI, key to their success in growing programs like UTeach has been identifying the primary components of the program needed for replication, and investing in a way that brings in additional long-term funding. For example, their most recent expansion, to the Townson campus, includes funding from Maryland’s Race to the Top grant, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the University System of Maryland, and a commitment to sustain UTeach model by the university partners.

Such multi-sector collaborations are vitally important. That’s why the President announced earlier this year a broad coalition lead by the Carnegie Corporation of over 115 non-profits, foundations, companies, including NMSI – called “100kin10” -- that are working together to meet the President’s goal to prepare 100,000 high-quality STEM teachers over next decade.   And that’s why President Obama announced an initiative by the presidents of over 75 of America’s public universities totrain over 10,000 math and science teachers by 2015.

We look forward to working with NMSI and their partners on this critical work.  

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at OSTP. Kumar Garg is Senior Advisor at OSTP.