Inside USD

USD Awarded $900,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Friday, July 24, 2009

page-iQualified mathematics and science teachers are often in short supply at high schools in Southern California, but a $900,000 grant will help the University of San Diego combat the shortage.

The grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program will fund scholarships and provide mentoring and other support for students, especially those from under-represented minority groups, to pursue careers in teaching.

“We are excited to have this opportunity to help boost the numbers of math and science teachers in San Diego and Southern California, where the shortage is particularly acute,” said Eric Page, a USD assistant professor of physics and the lead author of the grant.

The five-year grant will add 12 highly skilled new public high school teachers to the region and help place them in schools where they are especially needed. Recruitment will begin shortly for the first two students to start this fall. Four more will begin in 2010 and six in 2011. Students who receive the scholarships will commit to teach for up to six years in high-need high schools.

Each student is eligible to receive up to $22,500 in scholarship support for up to three years, including the the junior or senior year of undergraduate study in science or math, followed by one year of study for a master’s degree. USD’s Office of Student Affairs also will contribute $72,000 to provide housing for students.

According to a 2005 study of local districts conducted by San Diego County’s Office of Education, the region will need 480 math teachers and 620 science teachers between 2008 and 2011, far exceeding the local capacity to recruit and train credentialed teachers.

Page said part of the problem is keeping students in the profession.

“Science teacher retention in high-need areas has proven to be a serious problem not only in Southern California but around the nation. As part of the Noyce Scholarship program, we plan to bring local teachers who have made a difference to talk with our scholars.”

This will help in two ways, he added. “We hope to send students into the workforce who understand the challenges (of teaching in high-needs areas) and are prepared to address them early in their careers.”  In addition, USD professors in the program will interact with and gain insight from teachers “who are in the trenches and succeeding.”

As part of the Noyce program, USD has received funds for the scholars to participate in paid summer internships and to help foster interest and experience dealing with children, especially from under-represented groups, Page said. USD’s program will utilize the university’s Center for Community Service-Learning as well as local nonprofit groups such as the Ocean Discover Institute that provides summer and after-school activities for students.

USD’s program will be a partnership between the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences. At the completion of the program, the scholars will have earned either their Master of Arts in Teaching or Master of Education degrees.

“Our science and math departments are leaders in promoting undergraduate research and enrichment opportunities,” said Mary Boyd, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “They will help develop teachers who can inspire and excite young students to learn about the world around them.”

The teacher preparation program at USD has long prepared its students to be responsive to and effective in the richly diverse classrooms of San Diego County.

“Over the last seven years, SOLES has been purposeful in strengthening our faculty capacity in the areas of math, science and technology education so that we can, in collaboration with our colleagues in USD’s mathematics and science departments, partner to prepare outstanding teaching candidates in these areas,” said Paula Cordeiro, dean of SOLES.

Other USD faculty members who worked on the grant proposal and will coordinate the program are biology professor Lisa Baird, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Jeremy Kua, mathematics professor Jane Friedman and SOLES assistant professor Joi Spencer.

— Liz Harman

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