Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has asked his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support greater flexibility in how states could utilize Department of Education funding to encourage and support prospective STEM teachers.
Last month, Holt sent a “Dear Colleague” to fellow House members asking them to sign a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. This letter requests that Duncan consider modifying current guidance to states receiving federal funding to improve teacher quality. This guidance restricts this funding, provided through Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to professional development for current teachers.
Holt wants to expand this guidance to allow Title II funding to be used for pre-service teacher recruitment and development. In his letter to fellow House members, Holt writes about the importance of STEM teachers who have “at least a bachelor’s degree in the content area.” He continues, “we should be investing in providing training and education to undergraduates who are earning a STEM degree and have an interest in teaching.” Citing the successful UTeach Program in Texas, Holt contends “Allowing states to use Title II Teacher Quality State Grants to fund pre-service teacher training programs will help replicate across the nation the results seen with UTeach.”
Members of Congress receive many “Dear Colleague” letters every day. These requests are far more likely to be reviewed if a constituent contacts their senator or representative.
The text of Holt’s letter to Education Secretary Duncan, which he has requested his fellow representatives to sign, follows:
“Dear Secretary Duncan:
“The American workforce in the 21st century demands an unprecedented level of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) knowledge, yet many of the very teachers who are preparing the next generation workforce are underprepared in STEM content areas themselves. Fewer than half of high school physics and chemistry teachers earned a bachelor’s degree in their content area. While having a field-specific science degree is not always necessary to be an effective teacher in that subject, the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” noted that the most consistent predictor of student achievement in science and mathematics is a teacher who is fully certified and has at least a bachelor’s degree in the content area.
“We must do everything we can to help our teachers perform to the best of their abilities and have students succeed in the classroom. One straightforward way we can address the problem is by giving all states the opportunity to use Title II funds to support pre-service teacher education programs, as is done in Texas and Tennessee.
“As you begin to provide further guidance on Title II funding, please consider modifying the Non-Regulatory Guidance that governs Improving Teacher Quality State Grants (ESEA Title II Part F-18) so that Title II funds could be used for recruiting and developing pre-service physical science teachers. This action should produce a significant increase in the number of qualified teachers. Successful programs for pre-service professional development of STEM teachers, such as UTeach, the LA program, and PhysTEC already exist. It is time to remove the barriers and give states the latitude to invest and expand such programs if they wish to do so.
“America’s leadership in scientific and technological innovation and its economic vitality depend on an educated STEM workforce. Using Title II money for pre-service recruitment and development of STEM teachers is a wise and effective expenditure of federal financial resources.