STEMTEC UPDATE: October, 1999
Several new initiatives have begun at STEMTEC, the NSF funded program designed to produce more, better prepared, and more diverse science and math teachers. One involves extending the collaborative around the state beyond the original higher education partners: the Five Colleges and Greenfield, Holyoke, and Springfield Technical Community Colleges. Another is the creation of formal pre-education programs. A third is the creation at UMass of alternative certification pathways for science and math teachers.
STEMTEC held a five-day institute in July for forty college and school faculty representing colleges with large teacher preparation programs. Teams including education as well as science and math faculty plus a K12 teacher came from our neighbors at Westfield State, The Elms, and Springfield College, and from Bridgewater State, Salem State, Lesley, and Wheelock Colleges. Collectively, these colleges train about a third of the Commonwealth’s teachers. Topics covered ranged from student-active learning, authentic assessment, and teaching experiences in courses to gender and minority issues. The feedback from the participants was very positive, and they left eager to implement changes in their courses. Follow-up meetings will be held during the year, and a similar institute will be held next July for additional teams. A Noyce Foundation grant helped to support the PALMS participants.
The new pre-education programs parallel the familiar pre-med and pre-law models. The STEMTEC Five Colleges pre-ed program requires several STEMTEC courses, an appropriate education or psychology course, a teaching experience, and a portfolio. A letter in the student’s file documents completion of the program. For a science or math major, this experience offers an advantage in applying to teacher education programs. It also strengthens the credentials of a prospective elementary teacher, since few elementary teachers have good science or math preparation. Similar programs are being developed at the community colleges for transfer students.
At UMass, the School of Education is offering two attractive new options for obtaining middle school or high school science teaching certification. This certification requires a major in the appropriate science area, a semester of education courses, a semester of student teaching, and the state teacher tests. The summer-fall program starts with coursework in June and July, and is followed by student teaching in the fall term. An undergraduate or post BS/BA student in this program completes the certification requirements by December. The other option is the opportunity to complete certification requirements and an MS in twelve months. While this has been possible in the past, the program has been revised to make this opportunity more attractive.
One closing comment: There are indications that STEMTEC is succeeding in attracting more students to teaching. For example, this past spring 12 UMass science majors applied to the secondary science certification program for their senior year; in recent years, the average was four applicants. Most cited STEMTEC courses or faculty as an influence in their decision. Enrollment in the science certification program is at a record level. Also, for the first time in many years, a math major is pursuing elementary certification.