GEMS Project

GEMS: Georgia Educators in Mathematics and Science

Project Summary:

Georgia Educators in Mathematics and Science (GEMS) is a Noyce Capacity Building project that brings together faculty from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences (FCAS) and the College of Education (CE) to evaluate the recruitment, preparation, and induction of secondary mathematics and science teachers produced by the University of Georgia (UGA). Drawing upon collected data, evidence-based conclusions will be made that address increasing the number of highly-effective and diverse mathematics and science teachers in grades 6-12.

Overview and Goals:

Teachers in Georgia are similar to teachers across the country – approximately 44% of public school teachers will leave teaching within their first five years of employment. Teacher turnover negatively impacts student learning. Students who experience a new teacher each year tend to score lower on a variety of assessments. The teacher turnover story is as bad or worse in science and mathematics. Some data show up to 52% turnover of science teachers after five years of teaching. UGA is surrounded by several districts with a high number of low socioeconomic status students. The demands of schools with low SES populations suggests that districts around UGA are at risk for high teacher turnover. From August 2016 through May 2017, nine faculty from CE and FCAS worked collaboratively in a professional learning community to explore the recruitment, preparation, and retention of STEM teachers at UGA. This group considered literature on best practices in teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention, and conducted surveys of UGA STEM students pertaining to their interest in teaching careers.

GEMS arose from the need to recruit, prepare, and retain more science and math teachers who will serve the low SES systems surrounding UGA. We aim to collect data that allow us to make evidence-based decisions that will improve the STEM teacher pipeline at UGA. These data also will serve as the basis for an NSF proposal for a full Noyce Scholar grant proposal.

This Noyce Capacity Building project has the specific goals of:

1. Conducting a needs assessment to determine the teacher shortages and interest among STEM professionals to pursue teaching,

2. Evaluating current recruitment, preparation, and induction processes, and then considering the revision of current courses, or the development of new courses, and

3. Strengthening collaborations among STEM and education faculty.

Strategies for Accomplishing Project Goals:

There will be three phases in this project.

In the first phase, this project will begin by collecting information from surrounding school districts about their specific needs in terms of grades 6-12 science, mathematics, and related-field teachers, with a focus on hard-to-staff science and mathematics positions in local school districts that are classified as high-need settings (low socioeconomic). Data will also be collected to determine the current efforts of surrounding STEM businesses or educational organizations in building a science and mathematics teacher pipeline, and the number of professionals who have moved from these business or organizations into education. This will consist of determining if businesses have “tuition for teaching” or how science students from two-year schools can transition to UGA. The data will be analyzed, with findings and implications suggested by the Core Team. The Advisory Team will review and critique the conclusions of the Core Team.

The second phase of the project will focus on recruitment, teacher education programming, and support for newly hired science and mathematics teachers in grades 6-12. The data in this area will consist of documenting the different forms of recruitment that exist at UGA. Passive forms (e.g., flyers, banners) and active forms (e.g., faculty talking specifically to potential students, programs designed to encourage an interest in teaching) of recruitment will be identified. Then, data pertaining to programs that prepare secondary science and mathematics teachers, and the numbers and demographics of students produced will be collected. The focus will be on programs instituted in the last three years (emerging programs), programs that have existed for longer than three years (current programs), and programs that are no longer open for enrollment (retired programs), and the diversity of the students in these programs. Finally, data will be collected pertaining to the support of newly hired UGA science and mathematics teachers. While data is being collected and analyzed, the Core Team will seek out information about secondary science and mathematics programs at other institutions that are successful in recruiting and preparing persisting teachers, and findings from Noyce research programs looking at this issue. The Advisory Team and the Core Team will again engage in their specific roles.

The third phase involves the writing of a report by the Core and Advisory Team that addresses needs and opportunities within the surrounding community, and assesses the current recruitment, preparation and induction opportunities pertaining to science and mathematics teachers in grades 6-12 at UGA. Based upon the data in the first and second phase, the Core and the Advisory Team will highlight existing recruitment, preparation and retention components or programs that meet the needs of local schools, and propose components or program revisions that will better recruit, prepare, and support secondary science and mathematics teachers who will work in high-need settings in Northeast Georgia and Georgia.

Dissemination Plan:

We will prepare an evidence-based report that escribes the need and the pipeline for mathematics and science teachers in the region served by UGA, the status of the current programs, and the persistence and performance of past graduates. Within this discussion, there will be an emphasis on diversity, building a teacher continuum, and the roles of education and STEM faculty associated with the production of science and mathematics teachers.

Partners (Team Members):

Julie Luft, PI
Dorothy White, Co-PI
Paula Lemons, Co-PI
Julia Przybyla-Kuckek
Elana Worth
Blake Whitt