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TC Wins Federal Innovation Grant to Prepare STEM Teachers

TC's NCREST Wins $12 million Federal Innovation Grant for Professional Development of Early College and STEM Teachers

TC’s NCREST Wins $12 million Federal Innovation Grant for Professional Development of Early College and STEM Teachers.

The National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools & Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College has won a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its STEM Early College Expansion Partnership (SECEP). The partnership provides high-quality professional development to teachers in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) who work with high-need students. SECEP’s purpose is to boost enrollment of high-need and minority students in the STEM areas and in early college programs.

“We are extremely proud of this i3 grant,” said President Susan H. Fuhrman. “It validates and extends the work we are doing at Teachers College to meet the high and growing demand for STEM teachers—especially in low-income and minority communities. If the U.S. is to reclaim its leadership in education, we must address the great need for high-quality professional development for teachers in the STEM disciplines.”

The five-year grant—TC’s first i3 award and the single largest federal grant to the College—is part of the DOE’s fourth round of its prestigious Investing in Innovation (i3) competition. The award—TC’s first Innovation grant and the single largest federal grant to the College—is the result of a highly competitive process. Teachers College is one of 25 institutions, selected from 618 applicants for grants in the current round of funding totaling $135 million. Only seven organizations, including NCREST, were awarded the higher-level “validation” grants, which fund existing programs that the DOE sees as having strong evidence of effectiveness, and only NCREST won a validation grant in the STEM area. The majority of the grants went to newer, less researched, ventures.

NCREST leads SECEP, a partnership with the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) in New York City and Jobs for the Future (JFF) in Boston. Both of these organizations offer high-need students access to early college programs and to STEM disciplines and careers—high priorities for the DOE and for President Obama, said Jacqueline Ancess, co-director of NCREST.

“MCNC and JFF have strong track records and a lot of experience with the early college model,” Ancess said. “TC brings a level of management, capacity and expertise to manage large grants and also is on the cutting edge of STEM content and pedagogical content knowledge and policy. It’s a good collaboration.”

Elisabeth Barnett, NCREST’s associate director, who will direct the SECEP project, added, “What is more, all three organizations have 10 years or more working on research and development of middle and early college high schools. We know a lot about how to support high schools seeking to improve students’ college readiness and success.”

NCREST will administer the grant and guide implementation of the SECEP model, and TC faculty members Erica Walker, Ellen Meier and Christopher Emdin will collaborate on the design of professional development for STEM teachers in partner districts:  Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut, and Genesee, Washtenaw, Delta-Schoolcraft, and Lapeer County Intermediate School Districts in Michigan. The project will serve as many as 22,000 students in 15 schools across the targeted districts. Its designers hope that 90 percent of participating high school students will earn college credit and at least 60 percent of participants who graduate high school will complete two STEM college courses as part of a pathway leading to postsecondary credentials. The grant is scheduled to begin in January.

Research by NCREST and the Community College Research Center (CCRC), also at Teachers College, shows that early college programs such as SECEP can significantly lead to greater academic success for underprepared and disadvantaged students in college. Repeated studies by CCRC have found direct links between dual-enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses for college credit, and a range of positive outcomes, including higher college enrollment and persistence, greater credit accumulation, and higher college GPA. These programs may also improve success rates in career preparation and technical courses of study.

Program developers hope to raise the number of students who are interested in pursuing STEM studies by 50 percent. They plan to support 70 to 80 secondary and post-secondary teachers in using STEM Early-College content and pedagogical content knowledge, and curriculum and instructional strategies, with a goal of 85 percent of teacher participants reporting increased ability and confidence to apply STEM content and pedagogical content knowledge in the classroom. Program developers will work in the partner Connecticut and Michigan districts to sustain and expand their Early College design and professional development programs, and to create a blueprint for STEM and Early College programs for other school systems.

The DOE established the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Its purpose is to encourage innovative educational practices that have been demonstrated to improve student achievement and increase high school graduation and college enrollment and completion rates.

 “It’s exciting to continue work that we’ve been invested in for a very long time “and to make a difference in areas where a difference needs to be made—that is, improving access to higher education and STEM careers for kids who are from under-represented groups. I think it will serve them and their futures—as well as the nation, beyond the life of the grant,” Ancess said.

NCREST was created at Teachers College in 1990 to conduct research and share expertise in developing equitable and effective schools.

(Published 12/19/2013)

Published Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013