Florida State University : Research in Review

[Skip Navigation]

Rx for Florida's Ailing Science Ed
R<sub>x</sub> for Florida's Ailing Science Ed

As a sobering national report to Congress in 2005 made clear, the U.S. is losing its competitive edge in science and technology as the nation's students' performance in math and science continues to lag in global rankings. The report mirrors Florida's woeful situation-only a third of the state's 11th-graders passed the state's science assessment test in 2007.

A new $10 million initiative, announced last fall, is being lauded as the beginning of a new day for public K-12 science and math instruction in the Sunshine State. The program began this spring on two partnering campuses, Florida State and the University of Florida.

Funded by ExxonMobil's $125 million National Math and Science Initiative launched in March 2007, the non-profit Helios Education Foundation and matching state funds, the Florida program is modeled after UTeach, a teacher-training strategy established 10 years ago at the University of Texas-Austin. FSU's component, FSUTeach, was awarded $5.15 million, while UF's counterpart, called FloridaTeach, received $5 million.

One of UTeach's main goals has been to attract science and math majors into teaching experience early in their college years. That approach, along with providing internships and giving teachers-in-training early classroom experience, has helped UT double the number of math and science teachers it graduates, and so far they're staying in the profession much longer than the national average.

FSU hopes to duplicate Texas' success, if not top it. Students enrolling in the new program, jointly administered by the Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences, will graduate with a double major-one in a math or science field and one in education-and be certified to teach upon graduation. They'll have several different in-service and teaching opportunities along the way. The UTeach Institute will provide course materials, operations manuals, consultation and training in establishing successful replications of the UTeach program.

"Instead of making incremental improvements in how we prepare science and math teachers, we'll be able to take an entirely different approach and make a dramatic difference for the better," said Joseph Travis, dean of FSU's College of Arts and Sciences. "We'll be reaching out to students who may not even have considered a career in teaching and preparing them more thoroughly in science and math than ever before."

Florida is chronically in need of middle and high school science teachers who have specific training and education in the science courses they teach. Last fall, The St. Petersburg Times reported that 10 percent of new science teachers and 7.5 percent of all science teachers in Florida are not certified in the subjects they were hired to teach —C.S.