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Among those attending the Jan. 10 meeting on efforts to increase teachers in math and science were, from left, Joan S. Bissell, associate director, Teacher Education and Public School Programs, CSU Office of the Chancellor; CSUF President Milton Gordon; Claire Cavallaro, dean of the College of Education; Howard J. Gobstein, vice president of research and science policy at the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges; and Beverly Young, assistant vice chancellor, Teacher Education and Public School Programs. Photo by Patrick O’Donnell

Adding It Up

Cal State Fullerton’s Efforts in STEM Education Highlighted at Campus Meeting

January 22, 2007

By Debra Cano Ramos

Cal State Fullerton has one of the nation’s leading and most comprehensive programs to produce high quality math and science teachers … and others are noticing the university’s stellar efforts.

The College of Education hosted a Jan. 10 meeting to showcase programs, recruitment and outreach projects, professional development and training in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

Attendees included President Milton A. Gordon, representatives from the California State University Chancellor’s Office, College of Education and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics faculty members and Fullerton School District officials. Special guest was Howard J. Gobstein, vice president for research and science policy at the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).

NASULGC is the country’s oldest higher education association, which collaborates with its 215 member universities — including CSUF and the CSU system — and other organizations. The Washington, D.C.-based association is planning to launch a major initiative this year to “increase significantly the number of high quality science and mathematics teachers prepared and inducted into teaching.”

The NASULGC initiative arrives on the coattails of the National Academies of Science and Engineering recent report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which calls for an annual increase of 10,000 mathematics and science teachers in order to ensure competitiveness of the U.S. economy.

Gordon said he believes that there needs to be a strong cultural change to encourage young students’ interest in math and science: “This cultural divide has to be tackled.”

One of the critical barriers to improving student achievement is a shortage of qualified teachers — a shortage many fear will worsen, according to NASULGC. The CSU system, which trains 60 percent of California’s elementary and secondary teachers, has made a commitment to double the number of credentialed math and science teachers it produces each year from 750 to 1,500 by 2010, said Beverly Young, assistant vice chancellor, Teacher Education and Public School Programs.

“We’re on target to meet — and exceed — that number,” she said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged $2 million in the 2007-08 state budget to continue the university system’s efforts to increase the number of K-12 math and science teachers. Two years ago, the chancellor’s office launched a science and math initiative to develop quality STEM teachers for the state’s schools.

Gobstein is visiting institutions across the nation that have launched high-quality math and science education programs aimed at increasing the next generation of teachers. It is important that NASULGC institutions help to meet this challenge, he said to those assembled at the CSUF meeting, and noted that Cal State Fullerton is clearly among leading institutions. Moreover, through the association’s initiative, plans include highlighting key programs in order to assist other universities in developing similar STEM education programs.

NASULGC is now in the process of establishing a commission of university, industry and education leaders to lead the initiative. The announcement about the commission is expected in February, Gobstein said.

“We’re hoping to make a significant difference in STEM education nationally,” he said.

As part of the January meeting, Victoria Costa, chair and professor of secondary education, gave an overview of the College of Education’s Mathematics and Science Teachers (MAST) project, a universitywide initiative to recruit, retain and support math and science teachers.

Keys to the project’s success include top administration support and the collaboration between faculty in the colleges of Education and Natural Sciences and Mathematics, in which science and math faculty are involved in the training of future teachers. She stressed that this interdisciplinary approach is vital to the university’s continued success to prepare future teachers.

“We have respect for each other and we honor what each of us do best,” she said, adding that they work together with the same goal in mind: to expand the math and science teacher workforce.

Under MAST, a wide selection of credential and graduate programs are offered and solid partnerships have been established with local school districts and community colleges. Outreach and recruitment efforts are in place to excite students about considering a career in teaching math and science.

Financial support is available for such events, including the state’s Assumption Program of Loans for Education, which provides up to $19,000 in student loan cancellation for future math and science teachers ( Numerous CSUF professional development programs assist current teachers with further training and skills to effectively teach math and science to young students.

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