Stories of Impact: Preparing STEM Teachers to Serve High-Need Schools in Georgia
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It’s no secret that Georgia, like many states throughout our nation, struggles to recruit highly qualified teachers committed to serving students in high-need schools in urban and rural communities—especially in math, science, and special education. When you take into consideration the state’s explosive population growth over the last several years, one-third of new teachers leaving the profession within 3 to 5 years, and a large number of retiring teachers, it is imperative that institutions responsible for teacher preparation work together to find a solution to the staffing crisis.
Since 2003, Georgia State University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) has been awarded the following three grants, totaling $27.5 million, to meet the state’s growing need for academically qualified teachers serving traditionally underserved students:
- Collaboration and Resources for Encouraging and Supporting Transformations in Education (CREST-Ed)
- Network for Enhancing Teacher-Quality (NET-Q)
- Professional Development School Partnerships Deliver Success (PDS2)
Most recently, the Teacher Quality Partnership grants from the U.S. Department of Education funded NET-Q and CREST-Ed. The overall goal of these grants is to increase student achievement by improving the quality of preservice teacher preparation programs. Through a collection of partnerships, initiatives, programs, and incentives, educators are prepared for the demands of teaching in critical fields in high-need schools. CEHD has established partnerships with numerous organizations, including nine county school systems, six metro-Atlanta school districts, 23 rural districts in south and west Georgia, four Georgia colleges, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
Some of the key components of the NET-Q and CREST-Ed grants are the math, science, and special education teacher residencies that place teacher candidates in classrooms for an entire academic year. “Through the NET-Q residency, we have recruited military veterans, mathematicians, scientists, health professionals, and many other career changers who are highly knowledgeable in their content areas and passionate about becoming successful educators who can make a difference in students’ lives,” said Gwen Benson, principal investigator for both grants. The residencies prepare teachers for the demands they’ll face once they’re teaching in high-need schools.
In the needs assessment with the college’s district partners, establishing “Cross-Career Learning Communities” was repeatedly mentioned as a desired focus. This initiative brings teachers and administrators together to discuss best practices and increase student achievement. Additionally, “Practitioner Learning Communities” allow for discussions around specific subject areas, such as math, science, and literacy. CEHD and its partners also help graduates develop relationships with mentor teachers, offer professional development sessions, and provide support as they find their bearings in the classroom.
“We want to stay connected with them and keep them excited about teaching,” Benson said. “If they have strong support, they’re more likely to enjoy what they do and continue teaching.”
Although many of the programs target pre- and in-service teachers, CREST-Ed will also expand its Academy for Future Teachers to its partner universities. This 3-week summer program emphasizes STEM education and invites high school students interested in teaching math and science to Georgia State’s campus for hands-on teaching and learning experiences.
Bahati Banks is graduate student recruitment and marketing specialist and Angela Turk is director of communications in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University.