UTeach Works to Extend Computer Science, STEM Education in Underserved Schools

Texas - UTeach, a nationally replicated model program with roots in The University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences, has announced $5.6 million in new federal funding to support its work to train teachers in effective computer science education, especially in schools that have been underserved.

In the larger of two grants, the UTeach Institute, in partnership with the University of North Texas, Louisiana State University, University of Houston, University of Texas, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), received $4.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded the funds through its Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program. The project will focus on expanding and strengthening the STEM teacher workforce through UTeach, expanding UTeach secondary STEM teacher preparation pathways, increasing the number of computer science (CS) teachers in high-needs schools and studying the role that CS curriculum and teacher support play in strengthening CS education over the next three years.

This project, working in four regions, addresses the significant shortage of qualified CS teachers by preparing 120 new STEM teachers, including 40 CS teachers, through expanded UTeach pathways to teaching. The project will prepare another 160 in-service teachers to offer rigorous computer science coursework using the College Board-endorsed, UTeach CS Principles curriculum and a new UTeach CS A curriculum.

"This project significantly benefits classroom teachers, schools, and districts, directly and immediately through in-service teacher development. At the same time, we will work to build a robust CS teacher preparation pipeline at UTeach programs in Texas and Louisiana. We expect to further expand new CS pathways across the network of 44 UTeach university partners as a result of this initiative," says Kimberly Hughes, Director of the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin and Principal Investigator.

Also this fall, UTeach also was awarded a $1 million National Science Foundation grant to improve underrepresented urban students' learning, participation and engagement in computer science through teacher professional development and classroom implementation of the UTeach CS Principles course in partnership with New York City public schools.

This project directly addresses the full participation of historically underrepresented minorities and addresses the significant shortage of qualified CS teachers by focusing on preparation and support of in-service teachers who may or may not have a background in the discipline. The project significantly benefits classroom teachers, schools and districts, as their involvement in this research-practice partnership will encourage the development of the capacity necessary to foster and sustain systemic change.

"We are excited for the opportunity to work closely with a collection of NYC schools on the implementation of UTeach CS Principles in order to improve our support for teachers so that all students are engaged and successful in computer science coursework," Hughes said.

For two decades, the UTeach pre-service teacher preparation program at The University of Texas at Austin has prepared large numbers of STEM majors to enter (and stay in) secondary classrooms. And since 2007, the UTeach Institute has recruited and supported 44 universities across the U.S. to establish their own UTeach programs. A new mini-documentary from WorkingNation highlights the importance and success of the model.