UTeach: Increasing Georgia’s Pipeline of Highly Effective Math and Science Teachers

November 22, 2013

By Rebecca Ellis

Background

As part of its Race to the Top (RT3) plan in 2010, Georgia set out to increase the number of effective educators teaching in hard-to-staff schools and subject areas, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To reach this goal, the state partnered with the UTeach Institute in Austin, Texas, which already had an evidence-based program accomplishing this mission in 17 states.  In 2011, RT3 provided $1.4 million in grants to Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU), Columbus State University (CSU) and University of West Georgia (UWG) to implement the UTeach program at their respective universities.  Together, these universities are well on their way to ensuring Georgia has a strong pipeline of STEM teachers ready to prepare our next generation of STEM professionals.

About the Program

The UTeach program began in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin as a new way to introduce undergraduate math and science majors to secondary school teaching.  The UTeach program allows students to earn a degree in their STEM major, while also earning a secondary teaching certification. UTeach certifies more than 80 students every year at the University of Texas at Austin. More than 90 percent of these graduates immediately go on to teach in their respective fields, and over 80 percent are still teaching five years later, compared to only 60 percent nationally. Additionally, almost half of UTeach graduates teach in schools where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunch.[1] Due to the success of this program, the University of Texas at Austin established the UTeach Institute in 2006 to replicate the program at universities nationwide.

The UTeach program has nine elements of success, including early and intensive field experiences.[2]  Unlike traditional education programs where students do not gain classroom experience until the end of their coursework, the UTeach program puts students into classrooms immediately.  In the first two UTeach courses, Step 1: Inquiry Approaches to Teaching, and Step 2: Inquiry-Based Lesson Design, students plan and teach lessons to elementary and middle school students, respectively.  In addition, to recruit students, universities offer a tuition rebate for these first two courses.  This rebate is strictly designed to encourage students to try out the program without having any financial concerns. Students still receive the rebate even if they decide, after either course, that teaching is not their career choice.

If, after these introductory courses, students decide to continue in the UTeach program, they progress through a series of three STEM education courses, focusing on content, pedagogy, and the connection between theory and practice.  These courses also teach students how to design and implement project-based units.  While enrolled in these education courses, students also take two to three specialized STEM content courses, including Perspectives on Math and Science, which focuses on the historical influences that have shaped these disciplines. [3]

In their final semester, students enroll in Apprentice Teaching.  In the first 40 hours of this course, students observe the classroom they will teach in and plan their lessons.  The students then take on full teaching responsibilities – teaching for four hours per day for twelve weeks.  During this process, master teachers and university staff observe students in their classrooms and provide feedback on their teaching and lessons.3

By integrating early and intensive field experiences with coursework in education and STEM content, the UTeach program both increases its enrollment and provides students hands-on experience to determine early if teaching is the right career path for them. These program elements increase the likelihood that UTeach graduates will become and remain effective educators.

Impact in Georgia

Currently, Georgia’s UTeach programs have a total enrollment of 388 students.  These students, in accordance with the UTeach model, teach STEM lessons to middle and elementary school students early in their UTeach coursework, and then continue to take additional education and STEM-focused classes. These universities will graduate their first cohort of students this spring. Graduates of these programs are projected to teach over 3,800 secondary STEM students by 2015 and over 160,000 by 2020.[4]

Source: The UTeach Institute (2013). UTeach Georgia Replication.

Beyond Race to the Top

Another element that makes UTeach successful is its sustainability-focused funding model. As the programs grow in both enrollment and course offerings, their expenses increase, but the amount of grant money they receive in relation to their overall budget decreases.  Universities must secure money from regular university budgets, endowments, and public and private donations.  This model ensures that universities can sustain the program with reliable funding streams beyond the grant period.  All three of Georgia’s programs have worked within this model to develop sustainable funding sources – ensuring their programs will continue beyond Race to the Top.

 

[1] The UTeach Institute (2013). UTeach National Replication Snapshot. Retrieved from http://uteach-institute.org/files/uploads/uteach_snapshot_natl.pdf

[2] The UTeach Institute (2013). The UTeach Elements of Success. Retrieved from: http://uteach-institute.org/replicating-uteach/detail/elements-of-success/

[3] The UTeach Institute (2013). UTeach Curriculum Overview. Retrieved from http://uteach-institute.org/replicating-uteach/detail/curriculum-overview/

[4] The UTeach Institute (2013). Georgia Universities Implementing UTeach: Spring 2013 Progress Reports.

 

Related Links

UTeach Columbus

SPSUTeach

UTeach West Georgia

UTeach Institute (Austin, TX)

UTeach Georgia Replication