Date: July 30, 2002 Contacts: Vanee Vines, Media Relations Officer Andrea Durham, Media Relations Assistant (202) 334-2138; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Program Needed to Draw Postdoctoral Scholars Into K-12 Education Careers
WASHINGTON -- A national fellowship program should be created to attract recent recipients of science and mathematics doctorates to K-12 teaching and other education positions, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The proposed effort is needed to help improve science and mathematics instruction at a time when U.S. student achievement in those subjects often trails that of students in other industrialized countries.
"A program to bring talented science and mathematics Ph.D.s into the nation's K-12 classrooms could help raise the level of both teaching and learning," said M. Patricia Morse, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and professor, University of Washington, Seattle. "It would offer postdocs a career path where they could help build bridges among our schools, colleges and universities, and science-rich institutions by applying their skills to support high academic standards and provide leadership in education-reform efforts."
The report is the culmination of the second part of a three-phase project undertaken by the Research Council in response to several concurrent trends, including a projected shortage of 2 million elementary and secondary teachers over the next decade and a shrinking pool of permanent research positions for postdoctoral scholars. The purpose of the project is to examine the feasibility of recent Ph.D.s becoming more deeply involved in K-12 science and mathematics education. During the first phase, recent graduates were surveyed to explore their interests in pursuing careers in secondary education. Data analysis revealed a high level of interest among a significant percentage of the survey respondents. A national fellowship program would be a good way to attract Ph.D.s and test the program in K-12 educational institutions that volunteer to take part, the committee concluded.
Through their experiences as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, Ph.D.s acquire expertise in and passion for their disciplines, insights into learning through discovery, facility with the use of information technology, and strong connections to higher education and professional societies. With proper preparation, they could gain the additional skills and knowledge to become effective teachers and leaders in the effort to improve K-12 teaching and learning, the report says. The proposed fellowship program would provide the preparation necessary for teacher certification, including time spent working in a K-12 environment, and serve as a bridge between secondary and higher education.
Program administrators should select fellows who are recipients of doctorates in physical, biological, or mathematical sciences, or in engineering -- chosen on the basis of their content knowledge, commitment to K-12 education, and teaching suitability, the report says. The proposed fellowships would last two years, and fellows could expect to see a stipend of about $35,000 per year. A national program would support all fellows during their first year. The schools in which the fellows work as part of their teacher education would be expected to pay their stipends and benefits in the second year.
The third and final phase of the project would be a thorough evaluation of a demonstration program to determine how well it works and provide information on whether a full-scale, ongoing program is warranted. As currently envisioned, a pilot program with 15 fellows per year for four years would generate enough evidence to determine if the program should be sustained or expanded. However, effective evaluation of whether the fellows become successful educators and improve teaching in science, mathematics, and engineering will require a program of at least 30 fellows a year for 10 years, the committee said.
The study was funded by the National Research Council with additional support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Carnegie Corp. of New York. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows. Read the full text of Attracting Ph.D.s to K-12 Educationfor free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web site or by calling (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).