$1.4 million education grant nurtures math and science teachers
Kate Scantlebury
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10:32 a.m., Oct. 31, 2008----A team of faculty representing the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy (CHEP) at the University of Delaware has received a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) that will fund a five-year project to increase the number of students pursuing degrees in math and science education.

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Project SMART (Science and Mathematics Academy for Recruiting Teachers) will focus on student recruitment and teacher placement in high-needs secondary schools. It was one of only four proposals funded nationwide through DOE's Preparing Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow program.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to recruit underrepresented students into science and math teaching,” said Kate Scantlebury, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and coordinator of UD's secondary science education program. “This grant will provide the support we need to bring these students to the University of Delaware and inspire them to become teachers.”

Scantlebury will serve as the project director with assistance from Carol Vukelich, L. Sandra and Bruce L. Hammonds Professor of Education and director of the Delaware Center for Teacher Education, and Alfinio Flores, Hollowell Professor of Secondary Math Education.

“There are three problems we are trying to address with this project,” Vukelich said. “First, we are looking for more students to pursue math and science teaching careers. Secondly, we want to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in our science and math programs. And thirdly, we want to encourage more students to pursue teaching careers in high-needs schools.”

Seaford High School in southern Delaware and Parkway High School in Philadelphia are partners in the project. Both schools serve high-needs populations and also are willing to serve as sites for students in the project to gain practical experience.

The grant supports the hiring of a project coordinator who will spend time in the partner schools getting to know the students, making presentations on the opportunities available in science and math education, and working with teachers to implement a co-teaching model for science education developed by Scantlebury. Potential recruits also will have opportunities to visit the UD campus to learn about the University, the program and financial aid opportunities.

Recruiting for the program also will be done among current UD science and math majors who may not have previously considered a career in teaching. The goal is to recruit 20 students for the project each year, with 50 percent from underrepresented groups.

As these students pursue their teacher education curricula, they will participate in field experiences, practicum placements and student teaching that build their background knowledge and familiarize them with the challenges presented by high-needs environments. Graduates of the program who accept jobs in high-needs schools will continue to receive special mentoring and support throughout their first year.

Article by Beth Chajes