Federal research indicates that the United States will soon face a critical shortage of educators qualified to teach math and science.
In view of this, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) opened a center of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. The STEM Education Center at WPI will improve preparedness of primary and secondary school teachers so that they can better educate and engage young people in these critical disciplines.
“The institute is widely known as a center for educational innovation.” – WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey
“Our professors have a proud history of engaging young people to get them interested in science, math, and technology, which has enabled us to develop a number of highly effective programs that assist teachers in bringing these subjects alive for their students. The students, in turn, become motivated to explore careers in these fields.”
“The STEM Education Center will build on this success,” Berkey continued. “It will allow us to centralize and share our expertise with K-12 educators and administrators, giving them the tools they need to provide the type of education that can revitalize American competitiveness; the relationship between a STEM-educated workforce and a strong economy is undeniable.”
Martha Cyr, Ph.D., a nationally recognized authority on K-12 educational outreach, will serve as the executive director of the STEM Education Center at WPI. Cyr has been at the helm of WPI’s K-12 outreach programs since 2003. She has published extensively on STEM outreach and has frequently been an invited speaker on engineering education at national forums. Among her credits, Cyr helped develop TeachEngineering, an extensive online resource for K-12 educators who teach engineering.
“The STEM Education Center at WPI will engage and empower K-12 STEM educators and help them to do the critically important job of fostering the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world,” said Cyr.
It will focus on three primary areas – Certification and Degree Programs, Professional Development Workshops, and Integration of Research on Teaching and Learning – and utilize the entirety of WPI’s vast educator resources, coordinating all of its K-12 efforts for STEM educators and administrators into one central location.
1. For Certification and Degrees, the center will offer students, while they are pursuing their four-year degree within their major, a track to simultaneously receive initial licensure to teach in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and technology/engineering. Additionally, there will be degree programs developed for practicing teachers to receive a master’s degree in those areas.
2. The center will also enable practicing educators to receive specialized professional development courses in STEM content. Such courses are appropriate for any teacher wishing to further their professional growth, and would address the wants and needs of teachers who are required to strengthen their content knowledge, but not needing to work toward another advanced degree.
3. WPI’s existing focus on Teaching and Learning in Science and Math will greatly assist the center in imparting verifiable data to key decision-makers, particularly superintendents, principals, and science specialists.
The shortage of qualified STEM educators was sounded in several government reports in recent years. Reports released in recent years by both the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) have detailed a critical shortage in STEM-educated teachers that could leave the United States at a competitive economic disadvantage.
The USDOE’s 2011 Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide List noted critical shortages in math and science throughout the United States, particularly in urban and rural settings. The nationwide need for new STEM teachers over the next decade is more than 100,000.
The USDOL’s 2007 report, “The STEM Workforce Challenge,” referred to the dramatic increase in the number of STEM-field jobs, while noting there is a lack of sufficiently trained workers leaving American colleges and universities to fill them.