The current educational system needs a solution.
For at least 30 years, there have been claims about the need for increased scientific, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capacity in the United States, and warnings about the inability of the current educational system to meet that need. KSTF programs address this need by building a stable corps of professional teachers with the potential to improve STEM education across the country.
The Challenge: Lack of Student Interest and Proficiency in STEM Subjects
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2010) has argued that the lack of STEM capacity in the United States is not only an issue of student proficiency, but of a lack of student interest in STEM subjects as well. Increasingly, research and policy statements recognize that STEM teachers have the greatest potential to impact both student proficiency and interest, and therefore play a crucial role in the future U.S. STEM capacity.
THE CHANGING TEACHER WORKFORCE
As the need for a STEM-literate population is growing, the teacher workforce in the United States is changing significantly. The teacher preparation system has expanded and new teachers enter the profession through an ever-increasing number of routes. There is very little consensus or understanding of what constitutes good — or even adequate — preparation for an increasingly diverse student population and range of teaching contexts.
A SHORTAGE OF QUALITY TEACHERS
New teachers are leaving before they develop expertise and retiring teachers are draining the pool of potential mentors for novices. In addition, children of color and children living in poverty — two demographic categories that have been steadily growing — are disproportionately taught by the least experienced teachers. Plus, the STEM teacher workforce is struggling to retain individuals with expertise that is increasingly in demand by other professions, many of which can offer higher salaries. These factors are weakening the teaching profession, our educational system and the intellectual capacity of the nation.
ADDING TEACHERS IS NOT ENOUGH
A number of recent initiatives have attempted to address the shortfalls in STEM education, mostly by recruiting, preparing and retaining more highly qualified STEM teachers. There may always be high turnover in the teaching profession, but a constant influx of new teachers will not sustain — let alone strengthen — the teaching profession. Without a strong, stable corps of expert teachers, we cannot hope for an improved educational system that meets the needs of a society that is becoming more diverse and more dependent on technology and critical thinking.
The Solution: Develop Early-Career High School STEM Teacher Leaders
KSTF seeks to strengthen the teaching profession and increase the U.S. education system’s capacity to continually improve by creating a stable corps of outstanding high school math and science teacher leaders. Our work is grounded in a set of commitments that have led us to invest in a critical mass of exceptional beginning teachers:
- We understand that teaching is a critically important endeavor that is complex and intellectually challenging.
- We recognize that learning to teach well requires time, sustained effort, and ongoing support and development throughout a teacher’s career — even for the most talented individuals.
- We see teachers as critical change agents in their classrooms, schools and communities.
- We recognize the power of collaborative communities when it comes to teacher learning, leadership and broader impact.
- We understand that knowledge generated by teachers — from and for their own practices and within the classroom — is the cornerstone of continuous improvement in education.
OUR OUTPUT: A CORPS OF TEACHER LEADERS
These commitments drive and shape the work of KSTF’s three programs: Teaching Fellowships, Research and Evaluation and Senior Fellows. These programs work together to nurture the intellectual and social resources necessary to build cumulative knowledge that leads to better teaching, leading, and learning. The resulting connected learning community:
- Brings research and practice together in a mutually generative relationship,
- Strengthens and amplifies what is learned, and
- Provides multiple perspectives that enrich ongoing development.
Through our programs and our cornerstone principles, we work to realize our vision of developing a strong corps of teacher leaders — ultimately improving science and mathematics education across the United States.