By Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education
Ross Hunter is a direct fellow. The Bellevue legislator and chair of the House Finance Committee is very concerned about education and didn’t mince words when we met recently in his Olympia office.
“So,” he asked, “what are you doing for math and science?”
We’ve heard from many policy makers and business people who are concerned about the shortage of math and science teachers. We worry about that, too. The situation is likely to become dire if proposals to increase high school math requirements become reality. So we have stepped up our efforts to recruit students whose goal is to teach secondary-level math and science, and to encourage elementary-certified teachers to consider teaching those subjects in middle school. This year, we offer a new math endorsement for middle school. Our faculty members are involved in the development of a middle school science endorsement, and a K-12 environmental education endorsement.
We also work hard to increase the math and science expertise of teachers who are already on the job. I’m especially pleased about the Ferrucci Award, which brings a distinguished math, science or technology teacher to Pullman each summer for a sabbatical and provides university resources for projects of his or her own choosing.
When we created a poster listing our initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math, even I was surprised by how many there are. As you can tell by looking at the poster, these initiatives take place on all four WSU campuses. Sometimes we work with school districts, sometimes with other institutions of higher education, and sometimes with other academic units within our own university.
Best education practices and the research of our faculty are integral to our math and science efforts. Our roster of faculty researchers includes 16 whose projects focus on math, science, environmental education and educational technology. Their work is often funded by gifts and grants.
Examples of our grant-funded efforts to help all children reach their potential and to create a dynamic future workforce include:
In Pullman, the College of Education’s partnership with the College of Engineering and Architecture through the Engineering Education Research Center is designed to stimulate interest in engineering professions and to reform mathematics education. In one project, we place engineering graduate students in high schools, where they pass along their knowledge of engineering professions and mathematics instruction. Called CREAM, for Culturally Relevant Engineering Applications in Mathematics, this project energizes graduate students, K-12 teachers and students, and university faculty.
In Spokane, the College of Education facilitates the Riverpoint Partnership for Math and Science. Other partners are the Spokane Public Schools, Eastern Washington University, Community Colleges of Spokane, Mead School District, Central Valley School District and Educational Service District 101. Goals include developing a shared community understanding of high quality math and science education, and developing a certification or endorsement program for K-12 instructional coaches. Education faculty members also are working with high school math teachers, community college math instructors, and mathematics faculty to implement the College Readiness Standards in Mathematics.
In the Tri-Cities, College of Education faculty members are deeply involved in planning for Delta High School, a new school that will serve the communities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. Delta High will recruit students who are especially interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Its planned curriculum integrates all traditional high school courses and aims to develop creative thinking. The school, which will open its doors in fall 2009, is the result of intense collaboration among three school districts, Battelle (its major corporate sponsor), and WSU.
At WSU Vancouver, the Southwest Washington Transitions in Mathematics Education program is developing a regional plan to ensure that Clark County high school students are prepared for entry level mathematics courses at WSU Vancouver and Clark College. The program has, among other accomplishments, established relationships with local and state public and private partners, led algebra workshops for K-9 teachers, and recruited four high school teachers to teach a “Senior Bridge Course” that will help students span the high-school-to-college math gap.
In answer to Rep. Hunter’s question, we’re doing a lot about math and science.
With the help of both public and private support, we hope to do even more.