I have an idea...tell me whether its crazy.
The U.S. has a substantial problem with securing enough K-12 teachers with good knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects (one study of this problem). This problem extends from a shortage of highly educated high school math and science teachers, to elementary school teachers with poor backgrounds in math and science.
Schools like the University of Washington have large numbers of students in STEM subjects, including students in my field, atmospheric sciences. Even the weaker students in our STEM majors have stronger science and math backgrounds than many K-12 teachers.
Believe it or not, many of these UW STEM majors are NOT finding jobs in technical areas.
So, my question is: wouldn't it be a REALLY good idea to facilitate the entrance of interested UW STEM majors into K-12 teaching?
I am undergraduate adviser in my department and I asked our undergraduates whether any would be interested. I was blown away by the response...nearly a half dozen were enthusiastic about the possibility...and we are a very small department.
I talked to a few chairs of science departments--I received very positive feedback.
Sounds good so far, right?
Next, I checked with the UW College of Education. It turns out that there is no program at the UW that will allow a non-education undergraduate major to get a teaching credential as an undergraduate.
I sent a few emails over to the leadership of the College of Education and they invited me over to talk. I was told that the only path now for an educational credential for a STEM major is to return to the UW AFTER graduation for a fifth year as part of their Masters in Teaching (MIT) program.
I check with about a dozen students...having to pay for a fifth year is a real turn-off for them, considering the high cost of education right now. Lets face it, you don't make big money in teaching for paying off debts. They really want to do the whole thing in four years.
So I suggested the following to the UW College of Education. Let us establish a program whereby STEM majors would take education courses and do student teaching in their senior year (or distribute this over the last two years if possible). STEM departments might have to make some adjustments (perhaps reducing our requirements a bit), but this is completely doable. Students would receive both their STEM degree and teaching credentials after four years. Let me be a bit controversial here...if the UW and other Ed Schools are ok with Teach for America, where students are given FIVE WEEKS of ed training before thrown into a classroom, surely they could work something out if they have an undergrad STEM major for a whole year.
I believe such a hybrid STEM/education program would be a huge success and could grow to hundreds of students. The folks in the College of Education are willing to consider this idea, but noted they would need resources to create such a new program. This would be money very well invested. They told me they would hold a meeting on this subject sometime during the spring.
Is this a good idea? I did some googling and found that several states have started or will start such a program. It would help supply very qualified high school math/science teachers and could greatly improve the math/science backgrounds of elementary and middle school teachers. To me this would be a home run for everyone involved and could be another way for the UW to contribute to our state.