California State University, Fullerton

A-Z Index

CSUF Home   »   INSIDE

Victoria B. Costa, director of science education and professor of secondary education

Cal State Fullerton Answers Call

Joins National Drive to Increase Pool of Math, Science Teachers

February 24, 2009

By Debra Cano Ramos

Cal State Fullerton has committed to boosting the number of science and mathematics teachers in secondary schools as a part of the newly established Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, developed by NASULGC, a public university association.

Educators and others agree that there is a nationwide shortage of science and math teachers. If the U.S. is to remain a leader in engineering, technology and innovation in the global market place, the state of science and mathematics education must be reversed, according to NASULGC.

To date, 107 institutions across the country are committed to the imperative.

SMTI institutions will work together to substantially increase the diverse pool of highly qualified science and mathematics teachers in their states. Institutions will work with appropriate state agencies to identify immediate and long-term needs for middle school and high school teachers.

Institutions will bolster partnerships among universities, school systems, state governments and other entities to address statewide needs and share best practices for the preparation of teachers.

As part of the teacher imperative, NASULGC also formed The Leadership Collaborative, a group of 27 institutions drawn from universities making the commitment to SMTI. Sixty-one institutions applied to join the collaborative.

Cal State Fullerton, a NASULGC member, was among the institutions chosen and is the only California State University campus invited to participate at this level. Victoria B. Costa, Cal State Fullerton’s director of science education and professor of secondary education, will serve on the collaborative.

Costa is director of the university’s Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education, as well as director of the Mathematics and Science Teacher Project, which is part of the CSU’s Math and Science Teacher Initiative.

The Leadership Collaborative will examine ways to strengthen science teacher preparation at their institutions and work more intensively to develop a far deeper understanding of how to enhance the priority of teacher preparation and disseminate lessons learned throughout the community, Costa said.

TLC activities are funded by a $1.5 million, three-year National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership: Research, Evaluation and Technical Assistance grant.

Costa is looking forward to working with the collaborative to develop new approaches to strengthening the preparation of science and math teachers. She talks about her new role on the collaborative and how Cal State Fullerton is well positioned to partner with NASULGC.

Why is it important that Cal State Fullerton is involved in this national effort?

Cal State Fullerton has already taken a lead within the California State University system and at the state level, so it is natural that we would be selected to provide leadership at the national level. The university has the capacity to be a national model for the recruitment, preparation and support of math and science teachers.

What are some examples of how the university is leading way locally and statewide?

The university is recognized nationally for our collaboration between the College of Education and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to recruit and support science, technology, engineering and math teachers.

For example, Cal State Fullerton was the first to establish a separate foundational level mathematics credential, which has doubled our math teacher production. In addition, the university was selected by the Chancellor’s Office to develop and host the Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative Toolkit. This effort includes a variety of resources for recruiting math and science teachers across the state, including presentations on teaching math and science to financial aid and credential pathways.

We also have a number of promising grants and projects already underway, including Project GPS2 — Guiding and Preparing STEM Students, a collaboration with partner community colleges to promote science and math teaching among transfer students. This project is being led by the Center for Careers in Teaching.

Another new project is the Boeing-supported Promoting Resources for Informal Science Education, which offers summer internships at local science museums and centers to undergraduates in the science teacher pipeline.

Why were you chosen to represent the university on The Leadership Collaborative?

As director of the center, one of my roles is to keep track of, and support, the development of activities across the university that support our math and science teachers. I’ve worked with the Chancellor’s Office on a variety of these efforts.

I’ve also been involved in leadership roles at the state level as a member of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing committees for Teaching Performance Assessment and TPA Subject-Specific Pedagogy (Science Development and Benchmarking, as well as served as a Subject Matter Preparation Reviewer. My testimony before the commission was instrumental to the approval of the new California foundational level general science credential, which will be offered on campus this fall.

What will be the university’s role, as well as your role, in this commitment to increase the number of math and science teachers in California?

Presidents of 74 public universities and 11 public university systems are committed to Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, including our president, Milton A. Gordon, who is a leader in this effort. It’s an honor for the university, and for me, to be part of this push for a well-educated workforce to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Through our work with the collaborative, we will commit to producing more science and math teachers in the coming years, and to track and evaluate our programs of teacher preparation. As members, we will try out and develop analytic tools and identify and assess the effect of particular policies and actions. The collaborative will periodically share its findings with the broader SMTI group, as well as with other key constituents. Partners in the project also include two discipline-based organizations, the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, an effort of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Chemical Society.

What has the university accomplished thus far to strengthen our programs in math and science teacher preparation?

Faculty members across eight departments in Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Education have been extremely innovative. We offer two distinct math credential programs: one in the Math Department and one in the Secondary Education Department, and both are outstanding.

We recruit science teachers in nine different credential areas. These areas are regular and specialized chemistry, biology, physics and geological sciences, as well as the new foundational level general Science credential. Our single subject credential programs are always among the top three of all CSU institutions for their candidate quality.

Moreover, our internship program — the only one in Orange County — offers science and math teachers the opportunity to earn their credential while paid as a first-year teacher. Our science credential is considered technology-rich with a laptop-lending program and partnerships with local companies, such as Vernier Technologies, the National Geographic JASON Project and Intel Education.

We emphasize the use of technology to improve teaching and learning in science through improved student research, collaboration, communication and productivity. For the last several years, the Teacher Recruitment Project has been successfully recruiting multiple-subject candidates to pursue a second authorization in middle school math and science and, our Future Teachers Program, supported by the Anaheim Ducks, brings more than 1,000 high school students who are interested in teaching as a career to campus each year.

Finally, our new Professional Teaching Development Center serves as regional focal point and resource provider for support to teachers wishing to pursue National Board certification.

For more information on these programs, visit

Back to Top