Thursday August 31, 2006

Addressing Need for Quality Math and Science Teachers

The University of Dayton, Wright State University and the Montgomery County Educational Service Center (ESC) have formed a new consortium that will address the continuing need for more qualified science and mathematics teachers in the Dayton region.

The group has received a $500,000 Ohio Core Program grant to implement strategies to reverse the low number of qualified science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers by systematically recruiting, preparing and assisting with professional development for math and science teachers in the 7-12 grade classrooms of the region's urban, suburban and rural school districts.

"This consortium has been created to fast track mid-career professionals into the job market for math and science positions," said Thomas Lasley, dean of UD's School of Education and Allied Professions. "This effort is unique in that it brings together all the significant community players and represents one of the few consortia of its type in the state."

The grant will allow the consortium to recruit up to 50 mid-career professionals with a bachelor's degree in math, chemistry or physics and prepare them for second careers as math and science teachers in Dayton-area high schools. The program will begin in November, with the courses offered either on weekends or online by the University of Dayton and Wright State University. There is no fee for students admitted to the program.

An acute need exists for high-quality math and science teachers nationally and regionally, which will be even more pronounced if the Ohio Core Program becomes a reality.
Governor Bob Taft's Ohio Core initiative, proposed during his 2006 State of the State Address, calls for a more rigorous core curriculum to help Ohio's students become more competitive academically and economically.

That's one reason why Ralph Tolle became a teacher after an impressive 25-year military career. After working at the Johnson Space Center, attaining his master's and Ph.D degrees in aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then overseeing the base flight dynamic lab at WPAFB, Tolle became a physical science and physics teacher at Stebbins High School and now chairs its science department.

"Being a teacher after years of professional, military and worldly experience brings a vast amount of knowledge into a classroom and goes far beyond book teaching," Tolle said. "We need to teach Ohio's students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers and to think outside the box. If you've actually spent years working on engineering design or analysis, you can teach by real-world example."

UD, WSU and Montgomery County ESC join with the Engineering and Science Foundation, a fund of the Dayton Foundation, and the current partners of the West Ohio EXCEL Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (WeEXCEL) to work together to train more people like Tolle rather than competing for Core teacher candidates.

"This program is an excellent opportunity for the universities and the public schools to work together to solve a teacher quality problem that has persisted for several years in the areas of math and science," said Don Thompson, superintendent of the Montgomery County ESC.

The teachers are expected to be provisionally licensed and ready to enter classrooms in fall 2007.
Ohio Core will require all students, beginning with the high school class of 2011, to complete a rigorous curriculum before graduation from high school and admission into Ohio's four-year state-assisted universities and colleges. All students will be required to take a second year of algebra and more lab-based science classes, as well as two years of a foreign language. Ohio currently spends more than $7 million annually to support professional development of math and science teachers, according to the governor's office.

Gregory Bernhardt, dean of WSU's College of Education and Human Services said a collective response to this issue offers a bigger benefit to the region and the state.

"This initiative will focus on areas of strength for UD and WSU and will marry our efforts with the outstanding abilities of the Montgomery County ESC to identify the teaching needs of area high schools," Bernhardt said.

For more information, contact Thomas Lasley at 937-229-3327, Don Thompson at 937-225-4598, and Gregory Bernhardt at 937-775-2822.