'Planting the SEED' to grow STEM teachers

STEM teachers

A three-year, $11.6 million federal education grant will provide additional resources for hundreds of Arizona State University teacher candidates to pursue STEM subjects, and offer professional development to thousands of undergraduates and in-service teachers around the state on teaching writing standards.

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), in partnership with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was awarded an $11.6 million Support Effective Educators Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education for 2013-2016.

“This project will continue to ensure that Arizona State University is preparing educators who are classroom ready on day one, as well as provide tailored, evidence-proven professional development to teachers across Arizona,” said Teachers College dean, Mari Koerner.

The Planting the SEED Project plans to recruit and prepare 220 students to pursue STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – careers by providing teacher candidates in the areas of 7th-12th grade math and science with living wage stipends.

Additionally, the project will partner with ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to infuse STEM into its coursework and provide professional development in the Common Core/STEM subjects. Graduates of the program will continue to receive induction support from Teachers College faculty during their first year of teaching.

At a Higher Education Town Hall hosted by ASU in September, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s efforts in STEM as “nothing short of remarkable.”

Beyond STEM, the project will provide in-service teachers in 21 Arizona school districts with professional development in the writing standards for Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (formerly known as Common Core).

“Teachers need to be prepared to teach students that can critically consume and effectively produce information through writing,” said Catherine Weber, assistant professor of literacy education in the Teachers College. “This project will engage teachers in strategic professional development to increase their knowledge about writing, confidence in teaching writing and abilities to improve student achievement.”

Grant resources will also support the Teachers College’s Professional Learning Library, an online community of thousands of teaching presentations and forms for educators, and the iTeachAZ Data Dashboard, which allows teacher candidates to gauge and track their progress.

The Teachers College and NIET are also partners on a pair of federal grants that serve more than 30 school districts across the state. The Arizona-Ready-for-Rigor Project is working with teachers to increase their effectiveness through the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a comprehensive school reform system that provides opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, instructionally-focused accountability and competitive compensation for educators. The ASU NEXT grant focuses on providing a more rigorous curriculum for teacher candidates while providing in-classroom experiences through the college’s iTeachAZ teacher preparation program.

“The Teachers College takes our school partnerships seriously. When our partners expressed a need for well-trained math and science teachers in the middle school and high school grades, we recognized the SEED Project as an ideal opportunity to respond to those needs,” said Michelle Rojas, clinical assistant professor and executive director of the NEXT grant, who wrote the SEED application with NIET. “School partnerships are critical to the success of the iTeachAZ program.”

The Planting the SEED Project is the latest step in the continuation of the educational reform ASU and its partners are developing together.

“In order to ensure that every student has an effective teacher every year, it is essential that new teachers are prepared to excel beginning in their first year, particularly in STEM classrooms,” said Gary Stark, president and CEO of NIET, which is nationally recognized for helping current teachers improve their instructional skills through the TAP system. “We are pleased to be working with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and ASU faculty members in the STEM fields, along with our school partners, to provide new teachers with the preparation they need to be outstanding teachers."