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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Executive Summary The quality of science, mathematics, and technology education in kindergarten through high school (K-12) is a major concern for many observers of school systems across the United States. One key element in that concern has been the shortage of qualified teachers in these subjects. Significant percentages of the teachers of these subjects did not major or minor in them in college; some did not study them at all. The problem is particularly acute at the secondary school level in the nation’s rural and urban areas. Moreover, because about two-thirds of the nation’s K-12 teachers are expected to leave teaching in the next 10 years, the problem is likely to get worse. Other elements of concern have been the lack of adequate teacher professional development, curriculum development, and connections to educational resources outside the schools (including museums, aquaria, and zoos) and to institutions of higher education. At the other end of the educational spectrum, the United States is justly famous for the quantity and quality of its doctoral graduates in these subjects. Yet an increasing number of well-trained PhDs cannot find—or decide they do not wish to pursue—traditional careers in academia or industry. With interests that span these two ends of the educational spectrum in the United States, the National Research Council (NRC) has undertaken a three-phase project to explore the possibility of a program to attract science, mathematics and engineering PhDs to careers in K-12 education. The first phase of the project surveyed the interests of recent PhDs in sci-
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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology ence and mathematics in pursuing careers in secondary education. Analysis of the Phase I data suggests that a significant percentage of PhDs might be interested in pursuing careers in secondary education under some circumstances. This report from the second phase of the project presents a proposal for a national demonstration program to determine how one might prepare PhDs to be productive members of the K-12 education community. The proposed program is designed to help meet the needs of the nation’s schools, while providing further career opportunities for recent PhDs in science, mathematics and engineering. The committee proposes that the concept be demonstrated through a National Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to prepare new and recent PhDs for teaching and other positions in K-12 education and to prepare them to take part in future leadership activities. The program would provide 2 years of support for fellows to undertake classroom study and supervised teaching. Their work would include the courses and experiences necessary for teaching certification in their states. Part of the work would be based in institutions of higher education; part would be based in local schools. In the first year, all costs would be borne by the national program; the schools in which the fellows are employed are expected to pay their stipends and benefits in their second year in the program. The proposed demonstration program needs to be national in scope because the needs in K-12 education are national, the potential supply of PhDs represents a national pool, and there would be economies of scale for recruitment, selection, and placement at the national level. A national program will also provide the opportunity for schools to choose from a larger pool of applicants and for applicants to choose from a larger pool of schools than would be the case for local or state programs. Finally, the committee believes that the nature of the problem is such that success will require the prestige and momentum that can only be achieved through national attention. The committee strongly endorses Phase III of the project in which the proposed demonstration program would be implemented and evaluated. An initial 4-year demonstration program for cohorts of around 15 fellows per year should generate enough evidence to evaluate the feasibility and desirability of expanding the effort. However, the committee believes that a comprehensive evaluation of whether the fellows become successful K-12 educators and improve K-12 teaching in science, mathematics, and technology in the nation’s schools will require a program of at least 30 fellows a year for perhaps 10 years. For 30 fellows per year, such a program would
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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology cost about $2 million for the first year, with all support being provided at the national level, and about $500,000 the second year, when most of the support would be provided by the schools in which the fellows are working. Thus, at steady state, the National Postdoctoral Fellowship Program suggested here would require about $2.5 million (in 2002 dollars) for 30 fellows; for a program of 60 fellows, the estimated cost would be about $4.8 million. These estimates include a basic annual stipend ($35,000) and benefits ($15,000) for each fellow in the first year, and some administrative costs in both years; but they do not include ancillary costs associated with evaluation and administrative overhead. The committee recognizes that the details of the demonstration program will have to be specified in Phase III and will depend in part on the source of support for the program. The committee believes that one or more federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Education, are the most likely funders for this program because of its relevance to their responsibilities; however, its support might also come from private foundations.
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