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USG Working to Ramp Up Math/Science Education and Production of Math/Science Teachers

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Statewide Initiative will Impact High School Math/Science Classes

Atlanta — June 13, 2007

The 19 teacher-preparation institutions in the University System of Georgia (USG) produced a total of three high-school physics teachers in 2006, and University System officials are not satisfied with this low number. The Board of Regents today heard details of an action plan to increase the numbers of both students pursuing an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and teachers prepared to teach courses in these fields in the public schools.

“The University System is graduating so few students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that Georgia is in danger of not having what it takes to compete in today’s world economy,” said Dr. Carl Patton, president of Georgia State University. Patton, along with Dr. Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for P-16 initiatives, presented the regents with a report on the USG Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Presidents’ Initiative.

The University System of Georgia awarded just over 1,400 bachelor-of-science degrees in engineering during Fiscal Year 2006. According to the University of California at Berkeley, the United States and Europe combined produce only 170,000 undergraduate engineering degrees annually, compared to China and India, which together produce close to a million.

In partnership with Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the University System of Georgia will, through STEM, pursue a number of strategies divided into three interconnected categories:

  • increasing the number of K-12 students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by working to alter their perceptions about these disciplines, offering special programs to engage their interest and continuing to work with the DOE to advocate that the state Board of Education require all high-school students to complete four years of mathematics and four years of science in order to earn a diploma. The goal is to raise the number of high-school students taking rigorous science and mathematics courses from the current level of 67 percent to 90 percent by 2013;
  • increasing the number of college students who pursue the STEM disciplines by taking a pilot project aimed at the educationally disadvantaged – Project MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) – System-wide at the USG’s access institutions, by participating in another national project, Mathematics Success and by improving the techniques used to teach the introductory courses critical to student success. The goal is to raise the number of bachelor-of-science degrees awarded in STEM disciplines from the 2006 level of 4,726 to 7,200 by 2013; and
  • increasing the number and quality of teachers prepared in science and mathematics by replicating successful programs from the University System’s participation in the Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM). The goal is to raise the USG’s production of middle- and high-school science and math teachers from the 2006 level of 678 to 1,340 by 2013.

Georgia’s involvement in PRISM through a $34.6 million National Science Foundation grant began in 2003. PRISM is a comprehensive nationwide research and development project that seeks to: increase achievements by students in pre-school through Grade 12 in science and mathematics in order to improve their readiness for careers in these disciplines; increase the responsiveness of higher-education faculty in science and mathematics to the needs of K-12 schools; and close the achievement gaps among various demographic groups through partnerships at the university and P-12 level. PRISM is ongoing in four regions of the state, involving 15 school districts and seven USG institutions. The two key state partners are the Georgia Department of Education and the University System’s P-16 Initiatives staff.

Patton and Kettlewell stressed that the reasons for the low numbers of students and teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are complex and the solutions must be multi-pronged, as a result.

“This is a long-haul undertaking that we know eventually will have to expand even beyond our proposed plan,” Kettlewell said.

Kettlewell added that, while the overarching problem is that the USG is graduating too few students in STEM fields, research has identified root causes occurring well before college.

“There is a pipeline problem,” said Patton. “In high school, not enough students are taking the upper-level science and math courses that will allow them to pursue these fields in college.”

If the University System doesn’t prepare a sufficient number of high-quality science and math teachers for the schools, the P-12 students aren’t going to have the teachers they need to get them ready to succeed in these fields in college, Kettlewell said. And if students don’t do well in introductory courses in sciences and math in college, they aren’t going to pursue careers as science or math teachers, she added, which will in turn impact the ability of K-12 schools to interest students in these disciplines.

Implementation of the STEM Initiative will begin in Fiscal Year 2008 - which begins July 1, 2007 - with a focus on: continuing to support the DOE’s efforts to strengthen high-school course requirements; taking Project MESA System-wide at the USG’s access institutions; and setting targets for the production of middle- and high-school teachers and STEM majors, which will entail hiring more faculty members in these fields to increase program capacities.

Kettlewell told the regents this first phase of the STEM Initiative will require $1.6 million to fund. Work on the balance of the strategies will commence in Fiscal Year 2009, assuming funding of $4.2 million can be secured, she said.

Patton chaired the task force of USG presidents and other senior administrators who developed the STEM Presidents’ Initiative. Kettlewell, who is serving as chair and principal investigator for the PRISM grant, provided key staff support to the STEM task force.

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