$1.25 Million Expands Fast-Track Teacher Program

A $1.25 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education will expand a new fast-track teacher program at Carolina to include mathematics and geological sciences.

North Carolina is experiencing a serious teacher shortage. The state’s public schools need 525 new science teachers each year, but the UNC System’s 15 teacher education programs, of which Carolina’s is one, collectively produced obout 200 science teachers in 2006-07. Among the highest-need areas are science and math teachers.

UNC’s Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (UNC-BEST) program, launched this fall, is a collaboration between Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. The program originally was designed to offer biology and physics majors a way of earning N.C. high school teaching licensure while simultaneously completing their undergraduate science degrees.

Before UNC-BEST, an undergraduate science major at Carolina had to pursue additional study after graduation to obtain a teaching license.

The $1.25 million Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow grant will expand the program to include math and geological sciences majors as well as expand the existing programs in biology and physics. It will involve a partnership with four high-need public school districts in North Carolina – in Hertford, Warren, Vance and Guilford counties.

The first class of 12 UNC-BEST biology and physics teachers will graduate in May. The first cohort of UNC-BEST math and geological sciences majors could enroll in the program as early as fall 2009.

More competitive scholarship opportunities also will now be available for UNC-BEST physics students, thanks to a new grant from the Robert Noyce Scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation through the American Physical Society. The national program aims to increase numbers of K-12 teachers with strong knowledge of science and math who teach in high-need school districts.

The first of these physics scholarships will be awarded in May. The $750,000, five-year grant will be split among UNC, the University of Arkansas, and Cornell, Seattle Pacific, Ball State and Western Michigan universities. Noyce Scholars will receive up to $15,000 of scholarship support per year and must commit to teaching in high-need schools during their first few years after graduation.

The Noyce grant complements the Burroughs Wellcome Scholars program established during UNC-BEST’s creation by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund of Research Triangle Park. Five of those scholarships, open to all majors in UNC-BEST, will be awarded each year. Burroughs Wellcome Scholars receive an annual scholarship of $6,500 during their junior and senior years. They also receive a salary supplement during their first years of teaching in N.C. public schools.

UNC-BEST was part of Carolina’s report to the UNC Tomorrow Commission of the UNC System, which aims to identify and encourage ways in which its universities serve the needs of North Carolina.

Related coverage is available online:

  • The Fourth ‘R’: Readin’,’ritin’ and ‘rithmetic run up against unique difficulties in rural schools. Public education research has been concentrated in urban and suburban settings. UNC will try to figure out which solutions work out at the nation’s crossroads.
    From the July/August 2006 Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.
  • What ‘The Fourth “R” ‘Failed to Say About Schools: Letter in response to July/August 2006 feature.
    From the November/December 2006 Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.
  • Finding Another Way: Growing teacher shortage spurs alternative licensure programs
    BluePrints department feature from March/April 2004.

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