$4.4M in grant funds help California administrators improve STEM instruction
- Four California school districts, three schools and three county offices of education have received a total of $4.4 million in state grants to improve STEM instruction, with a special emphasis on strengthening administrators’ ability to recruit highly qualified teachers in those subject areas and provide professional development to existing staff members.
- “You can’t underscore how much influence that leader has on increasing teachers’ focus in that area. [Principals] define the journey and road a school will take in addressing those issues,“ Donna Glassman-Sommer, the executive director of the California Center on Teaching Careers, said in an interview. The center, which works to promote the teaching field, is administering the competitive California Educator Development grant program in partnership with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, a state agency.
- The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, for example, has received more than $760,000 to work with California State University Monterey Bay on increasing the number of preservice teachers with expertise in STEM areas and providing ongoing professional development to new teachers. Some county offices of education, Glassman-Sommer said, are also building STEM leadership into the requirements for an administrative credential, and others are creating STEM academies to give principals a chance to talk with each other about ways to improve students’ performance in science, technology, engineering and math.
Last week, the Trump administration released a five-year plan for STEM education that emphasizes partnerships between educational institutions, employers and the community, and increasing teacher retention efforts. In fact, much of the attention on improving instruction in these areas has focused on drawing those with expertise in math, science and other STEM fields into education. The University of Florida’s College of Engineering, for example, has received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide STEM-focused professional development for kindergarten through 9th-grade teachers in 11 school districts across the state, including those in Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Sarasota counties.
Other efforts include UTeach, now at 45 universities, which allows STEM majors to earn a secondary teaching certificate at the same time they are working toward degrees in math, science and other STEM fields. A study published in June showed that the program is contributing to higher math and science scores among students in middle and high school.
But principals also have an essential role in creating a schoolwide focus on STEM, forming partnerships with local businesses, communicating STEM efforts to parents, and monitoring whether students are gaining equal access to higher-level courses and enrichment opportunities. With more efforts to ensure that administrators are involved in decisions about teaching and learning, it’s likely that more states will increase attention to how principals are leading STEM instruction, as well.
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