Michael Marder

Five more universities will implement the UTeach program starting in fall 2014 bringing the total number of universities to 40.

Founded at UT in 1997, UTeach is a program aimed at increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and math — commonly known as STEM — teachers in the country. It offers students a path to teacher certification without requiring them to change majors or add any time to their four-year degree plans. The program has received national attention, including a shoutout from President Barack Obama in 2010.

The National Math and Science Initiative, which administers the program, will be implementing it at the following universities: University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of Maryland, College Park; Oklahoma State University; Florida International University; and Drexel University.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute issued a $22.5 million grant in March to fund the expansion. Another five universities will be added by fall 2015.

Michael Marder, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and executive director of the UTeach Science Program, said the program is an efficient way for future STEM teachers to grow.

“The whole country has a shortage of math and science teachers,” Marder said. “UTeach was very promising here and received interest from other universities.” 

According to Marder, expanding the program is a five-year process, and the money will go toward hiring staff and helping the universities integrate UTeach into their systems. 

“Creating a new program is like creating a new department,” Marder said. “The universities need to set aside space, add faculty and add supportive staff. This grant will help them do that.”

William Kiker, a UTeach alumnus and UT graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics, said the UTeach program creates effective and passionate teachers. 

“The UTeach program supports each of its students through their content-area growth,” Kiker said. “It also equips them with the theory behind successful teaching strategies and practice implementing them in the classroom.”

Larry Abraham, UTeach co-director and an education professor, said the medical institute has had a long-term interest in the UTeach program, and its talks with the National Math and Science Initiative led both organizations to believe the grant would have a positive effect on STEM teaching quality nationwide.

“The [medical institute] specifically noted the proven success of the UTeach program in helping universities recruit more STEM majors into pursuing teacher certification, entering the classroom and staying there longer as reasons to invest in this program expansion,” Abraham said.

Because of a change to the way the U.S. News and World Report evaluates college education programs, UT will not provide information for a national ranking of undergraduate and graduate education programs, said a UTeach co-director. U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality announced late last month that they were teaming up for the first time to rate the nation’s undergraduate teacher education programs. Thirty-seven education deans, presidents and directors sent a letter criticizing the council’s criteria, which they said focused on curriculum over results. Nobody from UT signed the letter, but they shared similar concerns about the new evaluation process, said UTeach co-director Michael Marder. The letter criticized a plan to automatically fail programs that did not participate in the new review process. Douglas Palmer, dean of Texas A&M’s College of Education and Human Development signed the letter and said the evaluations will not be valuable for Texas A&M or the general public. “It’s the opinions of the people who are hiring our students, it is the opinions of the parents, and it is the learning of the students of our teacher graduates — these are the critical evaluation concerns,” he said. The Council responded by instead deciding to give estimated ratings to schools it could not get enough information for. “We are not in this to punish education schools that don’t respond,” said council spokeswoman Julie Greenberg. “We want to create the expectation that they owe this information to the public.” Marder said UT is not planning to provide information to the council because it used inflexible standards to evaluate the UTeach program for training secondary science educators in Jan. 2010. The state requires secondary science educators to study four different subjects. The University complies through composite certification, in which students take 24 course hours in one area, 12 hours in another field and six hours each in two other fields. Although Greenberg said it gave the University an overall design award, the program was criticized for requiring two biology courses of science teachers. “They simply had the long list of particular things they were looking for in the program, and they gave a high score if they found them and a low score if they didn’t,” Marder said. “I see no indications that they pay attention to any of the outcomes for the graduates of the program. These are things that everyone preparing teachers cares about.”