The UTeach Institute is strengthening the production of new STEM teachers, including computer science teachers, by developing innovative, alternative pathways based on the UTeach program model.
The national STEM teacher shortage has been a persistent problem for more than 30 years. But the true scope of the problem may be even worse than generally understood when we account for the number of current high school STEM teachers who lack certification in the STEM subject they teach and the lack of STEM courses even being offered in schools (like physics and computer science) because there is no teacher available.
The problem is made worse by the steady decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the country over the last decade, an issue that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the teaching profession.
Students from marginalized racial and ethnic groups have been historically underrepresented in attainment of STEM degrees. STEM jobs represent a significant opportunity for economic advancement, especially for disadvantaged students and their families, yet these students are discouraged from pursuing post-secondary STEM degrees. Any attempt to address these long-standing inequities must begin with the preparation of K-12 teachers.
This SEED-funded work is designed to address these issues. We are increasing the number of highly qualified STEM teachers, including computer science teachers, prepared to serve concentrations of high-need students.
UTeach is a nationally recognized program proven to prepare secondary STEM teachers who stay in teaching longer, improve student performance in math and science, and influence students to enter STEM fields.
The UTeach Institute supports the expansion of the UTeach program at other universities across the nation. Fifty universities in 23 states and the District of Columbia have UTeach programs, and together they have produced more than 7,000 graduates, 68% of whom are teaching in K-12 schools with majority economically disadvantaged populations.
The UTeach Institute is also home to UTeach Computer Science, an initiative to broaden participation in computer science by providing project-based, equity-centered curriculum, high-quality professional development, and ongoing support to in-service teachers. Since 2015, more than 1,000 teachers have been trained to implement the College Board–endorsed UTeach AP CS Principles and UTeach AP CS A curricula.
Our SEED project expands UTeach preparation to populations not previously served by UTeach—STEM degree-holders, career-changers, and returning military. It also supports the development of innovative pathways to prepare more computer science teachers.
To meet the needs of post-baccalaureate candidates, we are customizing the same preparation approach and curriculum that makes the UTeach undergraduate pathway so successful. The foundation of inquiry-based and equity-centered instructional approaches in UTeach also informs our development of K–12 CS curriculum, and our approach to developing in-service teachers’ classroom instructional skills to engage students who have been historically excluded from CS.
Creation of Innovative Teacher Preparation Pathways
To increase the number of highly qualified STEM teachers in general, we are supporting the expansion of UTeach program pathways at UTeach programs in four universities. The partner programs have exceeded their project enrollment. As of September 2021, enrollments were:
- GeauxTeach at Louisiana State University — 26, all of whom are CS
- teachHOUSTON at the University of Houston — 70, 17 of whom are CS
- Teach North Texas at the University of North Texas — 26, all of whom are CS
- UTeach Austin at the University of Texas at Austin — 55, 16 of whom are CS
So far, 177 new preservice STEM teachers have been enrolled in new UTeach pathways, and 66 new STEM teachers have been produced. Out of these, 15 are qualified to teach secondary computer science.
Creation of New Computer Science Curriculum for Teachers
To increase the number of computer science teachers who can broaden participation of historically underrepresented students in computer science in high-needs schools, we have created a two-year sequence of AP CS curricula. We now offer a new project-based, equity-centered CSA curriculum offering to accompany our current CS Principles curriculum.
An additional 131 in-service teachers have received preparation and support for UTeach AP Computer Science Principles through this project. Additionally, 82 teachers have been trained to use the UTeach CS A curriculum, exceeding the project target of 20 teachers.
Project partners include the four well-established UTeach programs at Louisiana State University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Partners also include the American Institutes of Research (AIR) and Digital Promise. AIR provides program evaluation and is conducting a research study of high school computer science course implementation and teacher professional development. Digital Promise provides support and a hosting platform for the computer science micro-credentials developed by the UTeach Institute.
This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Education Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Award #U423A180139.
Proudly funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)