- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1758265
- First Name Julie
- Last Name Luft
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Geosciences, Math, Physics
Paula Lemons, University of Georgia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie A. Luft, University of Georgia, email@example.com
Teachers in Georgia are similar to teachers across the country in terms of their persistence as educators. Approximately 44% of Georgia public school teachers will leave teaching within their first five years of employment (Owens, 2015). In Northeast Georgia, where the University of Georgia is located, several schools have a significant number of students who are classified as diverse and of low socioeconomic status. Students in Northeast Georgia need well-trained teachers, who will persist, if they are going to build their knowledge in STEM areas. We are interested in having a Noyce scholarship program, but there is no data regarding the actual need for secondary mathematics and science teachers in Northeast Georgia, nor are there data about the quality of teachers produced by the University of Georgia. This project fills this void in order to determine if the University of Georgia should pursue a Noyce track 1 or 2 grant.
In this Capacity Building project, we have three guiding questions: Is the University of Georgia (UGA) producing enough secondary mathematics and science teachers for the surrounding districts? If not, how can we create a better pipeline for the creation of mathematics and science teachers? Are our programs producing mathematics and science teachers who are knowledgeable of content and teaching the content, the mathematics or science reforms, and student learning? If not, what are potential changes to our program that should be made? Are newly hired science and mathematics teachers (prepared at UGA) effective and persisting in the local schools? If not, how can we ensure that our teachers are effective and persist in their first years?
In order to understand if there are enough teachers in the region associated with UGA, we surveyed principals of local schools about the number of teachers they need and hire each year. We also asked principals about the quality of the teachers they hire who are UGA graduates. Specific questions pertained to the difficulty in finding mathematics and science teachers, the number of years current mathematics and science teachers have been in place, and projected vacancies in the next three to five years. In order to determine the quality of our teachers, we surveyed our current preservice teachers and graduates within the last five years about their knowledge and abilities upon graduation. We also examined the documents associated with the courses that prepared our teachers. Finally to determine attrition, we tried to contact all of our past graduates in order to document how many of our graduates are still teaching. Survey data made up the bulk of this study.
Not all of the data have been analyzed at this point, but some findings are: The results of the Principal survey suggested that there will continue to be a need for mathematics and science teachers in Northeast Georgia and that UGA can meet this demand. For example, 99% of the responding principals (n=78) hired a mathematics or science teacher in the last five years. UGA has an untapped pool of potential mathematics and science teachers – we have over 5000 students in the STEM fields but only produce about 60 secondary mathematics and science teachers a years. Most principals were satisfied with the knowledge and abilities of the UGA prepared teachers. The only dissatisfaction that was reported was with middle level teachers. Preservice teachers reported that they were moderately well-prepared to work in the school environment. However, they indicate having the least confidence in interacting with parents and community members, and in working with diverse students.
The Broader Impacts of the GEMS project reside in the development of programs intended to broaden the participation of under-represented groups in mathematics and science teaching by identifying, recruiting, preparing and supporting populations of diverse and under-represented UGA students in mathematics and science teaching. Thus, in time, GEMS will contribute to an increase in STEM talent in the state of Georgia by enabling diverse students of the state to connect with well-prepared teachers who share their diversity. In addition, this project will build upon current synergies at UGA through cross-college initiatives by promoting discussion about secondary mathematics and science teacher education. This will lead to an increase in UGA’s capacity for innovation in STEM education and education research.