Addressing The STEM Teacher Shortage
It is being called the “biggest threat” to Texas schools. When school starts this month, Texas classrooms could be more than 30,000 teachers short – many of those shortages in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
For Dr. Robert Capraro, co-project director of Aggie STEM, increasing the number of STEM teachers in Texas schools is a top priority. But he is not just focused on students at Texas A&M, he is also focused on those already in the teaching profession through a new certificate program.
The goal of the Graduate STEM Certificate in the College of Education and Human Development is to provide educators with skills necessary to excel in STEM fields. The certificate involves 12 credit hours of online instruction over two semesters.
The courses will give educators the opportunity to understand how their field interacts with the STEM field while adding specializations to their repertoire. The idea is that they will be able to prepare students in ways they never thought possible.
“I think education will look very different for our students in the next 10 to 15 years with students coming out having more certifications and being more prepared for post-secondary STEM careers. I think we’re going to have a nation of new innovation.”
The first cohort of 12 educators was awarded certificates in May. One of those educators, a high school math teacher, joined the program to expand his knowledge and skills and to help his students be more prepared for the future.
“The economy has a surfeit of unskilled workers, but the types of jobs that are growing and not being lost or automated are typically STEM related. On top of that, I think STEM is inherently valuable for people regardless of careers, economy, etc.,” explained John Fischer, math teacher in Austin ISD.
This program is unique because, upon completion, educators have the option to continue their studies by pursuing a Master’s of Education. Each credit hour earned from the certificate applies toward the degree. Six students in the first cohort have chosen to continue at Texas A&M.
The hope is this certificate makes an impact on the teacher shortage in the state.
“I think the STEM Certificate provides a much-needed professionalization route. I think it will help to retain teachers who might choose to do something else and provide incentive new recruits who want to do something innovative and creative in our K-12 education system,” added Dr. Capraro.
While the shortage is not unique to Texas, the fast-growing student population raises the concern level. Over the last 10 years, student enrollment in Texas has increased more than 17 percent and shows no sign of declining.
To get more teachers in the classroom and improve classroom instruction, the Texas Education Agency is working with the Department of Education to recruit and train qualified teachers. In approved shortage areas, including STEM, administrators can reward teachers using loan forgiveness opportunities.
“When we’re compared to other countries who have high performance, we’re often told we lag behind them. I think the focus on these STEM scientific fields – science, technology, engineering and math – and us moving in that direction is simply mirroring what the rest of the world does.”
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