The preparation of classroom
teachers is more
than a job for a single
college," says physics
professor Michael Marder, codirector
of the UTeach program at the
University of Texas at Austin. "It's a
So goes the philosophy behind
a new kind of teacher-preparation
program -- one that aims to increase
the number of high-quality math,
science, and computer science
teachers in K-12 schools through a
partnership between the university's
College of Natural Sciences and its
College of Education. Its highlights
include a faculty combining research
scholars with master classroom teachers,
award-winning criteria for technology
integration, and an extensive package
of postgraduate induction services.
Taken together, innovations such as
these have garnered UTeach $125 million
from the Exxon-Mobil Foundation to replicate its model nationwide.
All math and science majors at the university are encouraged to become
classroom teachers. Undergraduates can begin the program as early as their
freshman year and complete it in addition to their original major. As an
added incentive, the introductory courses -- which include multiple field
experiences in local schools -- are offered free of charge. "It is these
experiences that often convince students that this is something they
want to do," says Larry Abraham, UTeach's codirector.
Graduation requirements include, for instance, an understanding of
how technology-enhanced lessons can facilitate higher-order thinking
and a demonstrated emphasis on classroom teamwork and inquiry-based
activities. Candidates must submit electronic portfolios containing self-assessments,
observations by master teachers, and student work samples
to show they have met these objectives.
A project-based-instruction course also addresses these skills; codesigned
by a professor and a master teacher, the course investigates multiple approaches
to project-based learning and culminates in candidates designing
and implementing their own projects with Austin-area students (including,
for instance, building telescopes in a high school algebra class).
Though UTeach is still a young program, its model seems to be working.
Retention rates for graduates are far above the national average: As
of 2006, 80 percent of program alumni who entered teaching in fall 2002
or earlier were still teaching. Of the remaining percentage, says Marder,
many stay in education, even if they've left the classroom.
Some credit likely goes to the UTeach faculty's commitment to
providing cost-free support services to alumni. Master teachers
are available by phone, by email, and even in person. (It is not
unheard of for master teachers to book a flight to meet
a UTeach graduate in his or her classroom.) An online
telementoring program called Welcoming
Interns and Novices with Guidance and
Support (WINGS) also puts new
teachers in touch with experienced
According to Abraham,
on-the-job mentoring is
so essential to a new
that UTeach cannot
perform one service
without the other.
Location: Austin, Texas
Degrees conferred: Bachelor's or master's, or teaching certification (math and science)
Annual graduating class: 70-80
Time in the field: 15-20 hours prior to formal placement; 14 weeks of student teaching at a single school
No tuition costs for introductory courses
Holistic Evaluation Model
Postgraduate induction services
Sara Bernard is a former staff writer and multimedia producer for Edutopia.