The Alabama STEM Council will direct an initial $4.5 million legislative appropriation to launch four new UTeach STEM teacher preparation programs at fully accredited public Alabama colleges and universities and to further expand the UABTeach program at the University of Alabama Birmingham. The STEM Council is partnering with the UTeach Institute at The University of Texas at Austin and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education to manage a competitive call for proposal process and provide program implementation support to selected higher education partners. Qualified institutions will be eligible to receive up to $3 million in funding over five years to recruit and prepare secondary STEM teachers.
“Alabama has a decades-long crisis in the shortage of science and math teachers, and I know firsthand how UTeach solves the problem. Alabama can’t wait any more for enough STEM teachers to show up for our students. We need proven strategies that recruit undergraduates to STEM teaching, provide them excellent preparation, and get enough of them out so that every student has a caring, competent, qualified STEM teacher,” said Lee Meadows, Executive Director of the Alabama STEM Council.
The initiative is part of comprehensive efforts in Alabama to improve STEM education. The Alabama STEM Council, formed in 2020, is leading efforts to improve the STEM education pipeline leading to a strong STEM workforce. It has recently launched STEM teacher externships, a Scale Up program for STEM initiatives, and a proficiency dashboard showing STEM student performance in Alabama’s school systems. The Alabama Legislature has added this appropriation to their recent support of STEM education through efforts such as the TEAMS Act to increase STEM teacher pay and the Alabama Numeracy Bill to improve K-6 student performance in mathematics.
Representative Danny Garrett, Chair of the Alabama House Ways and Means Education Committee, commented: “Senator Arthur Orr, my counterpart in the Alabama Senate, and I are supportive of an initial five-year commitment to the UTeach program and strategy as a means of addressing the teacher shortage in Alabama. The UTeach program has been successful in other states. Along with other measures recently enacted by the Alabama legislature, including increasing overall teacher salaries, raising pay for math and science teachers, and providing additional classroom support, we are optimistic that expanding UTeach programs across the state will encourage more people to choose teaching as a profession. We are particularly focused on providing quality instruction in the lowest performing and most disadvantaged schools in our state.”
The new programs will be based on UTeach, a renowned university-based STEM teacher preparation program founded at The University of Texas at Austin. Since 2008, the UTeach Institute has partnered with 49 universities in 23 states and the District of Columbia to strengthen university-based preparation of secondary STEM teachers through UTeach, which provides math and science undergraduates with research-based, clinically intensive teacher preparation and continued support in their early teaching careers. The UTeach program is uniquely designed to lower barriers and provide incentives for undergraduate STEM majors to consider teaching as a career. UTeach teachers average longer classroom careers than graduates of other teacher preparation programs, and nearly 70 percent of UTeach graduates teach in Title 1 schools. An independent study found that students of UTeach teachers out-perform their peers in science and math achievement.
“The UTeach Institute is thrilled to have the opportunity to add Alabama colleges and universities to the national network of UTeach programs working together to strengthen STEM teaching and learning in the U.S.,” said Kimberly Hughes, Director of the UTeach Institute. She added that “the current challenges across our educational systems are unprecedented and the need for excellent teachers has never been greater. The students who join UTeach programs in the next couple of years are going to stand out as some of the most purpose-driven teacher leaders out there. They are going to change how students learn math and science. They are going to inspire their students to see themselves as future scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors, nurses, and even future teachers themselves.”