Fellowship’s formula could grow teachers: Indiana piloting program aimed at boosting math, science educators

Four Indiana universities have been chosen to participate in a prestigious new national fellowship program aimed at increasing the number of math and science teachers while serving as the pilot program for overhauling education nationwide.

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, of Princeton, N.J., selected Indiana as the first state for its program. It chose IUPUI, Ball State University, University of Indianapolis and Purdue University to launch the one-year fellowships and churn out the first wave of new teachers.

The fellowships-funded by a $10.2 million grant from Lilly Endowment-provide recipients a $30,000 stipend to complete a year-long master’s program at one of the four schools. Competition for the 20 slots at each school is expected to be fierce, drawing those who excelled in math or science in undergraduate programs nationally, as well as career changers and college seniors.

Those accepted to the clinical-like program-compared by some to how a teaching hospital prepares d o c t o r s – m u s t agree to stay and teach in Indiana for three years.

As selective as schools will be in choosing their fellows, the Woodrow Wilson foundation critical ly assessed the universities it ultimately picked.

Criteria the schools had to meet included direct collaboration between their arts and sci ences programs and their education program Each also had to have the capacity to offer the intensive program and leadership committed following through.

Indiana was chosen as the pilot state for the pro gram due to favorable demographics, an optimum number of students in K-12, and the right mix urban and rural schools. After that decision, four universities had to be selected.

“We began talking to superintendents and asked which schools were best in preparing teachers, said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson foundation.

While numerous colleges and universities were suggested, some had to be nixed due to the small size of their programs, Levine said.

Others were nixed for other reasons, he said Indiana University failed to show a willingness mesh its arts and sciences with its education pro grams, Levine said.

“There was no great excitement to do this on their part,” he said. “I was disappointed. They rated high in capacity to administer such a program.”

The four chosen ultimately rated high in all required areas. For example, Ball State already requires students earning a teaching certificate to earn an undergraduate degree from its College of Science and Humanities, said Terry King, provost at Ball State.

“We’re well-positioned for this,” King said. “We have strong math and science programs and turn out a lot of physics high school teachers already. Now it’s a matter of scaling it all up.”

Collaboration between the two areas is crucial, said Michael Maggiotto, dean of Ball State’s College of Science and Humanities.

“We have to acknowledge that how one teaches can vary with the discipline being taught,” Maggiotto said. “So people must be continuously immersed in how to understand how to convey to a new generation of students at different levels the foundational materials and newest developments in each field.”

“Scaling up” at Ball State will begin immediately. Curriculum will be developed and recruiting begun in the fall so the first cadre of fellows can be admitted in a year. Some students likely will come from Ball State’s engineering and science student populations.

“It’s a very attractive program to apply for a national science fellowship,” King said. “My guess is, we won’t have a problem getting students.”

Officials at University of Indianapolis-the only private school selected-are ramping up already, as well. The announcement by the Woodrow Wilson foundation came about a month ago and the schools are eager to get started.

“Recruiting high-caliber math and science teachers has been difficult for a long time,” said Lynne Weisenbach, dean of the School of Education at the University of Indianapolis. “Prestige of teaching is not as high as with other things and it’s not a high-paying job, either. This is a very visible national program that will enhance the prestige of the profession.”

The lure of the financial stipend won’t hurt, either, Weisenbach added.

One of the aspects of the program that will make it successful is that the students will be together throughout the year to help one another, said Weisenbach, also the executive director for the university’s Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning.

Like Ball State, the University of Indianapolis already has a strong connection between its arts and sciences and education programs. The idea is to strengthen that bond.

The national exposure for the school is a nice benefit to being selected, as well, Weisenbach said.

A task force is being formed that will begin planning for the first crop of fellows. The task force will include educators among K-12 schools, as well. University officials expect to visit sites across the country and the United Kingdom to look at other innovative teaching models related to the math and science disciplines.

And just as schools will expect much out of their fellows, the Woodrow Wilson foundation expects a lot from the schools.

As institutions learn the importance of forming collaboration between their teaching programs and the disciplines the new teachers will teach, the overall education program will be overhauled.

“And that could have a much greater impact than producing highly skilled teachers,” Levine said. “Increasing student achievement in K-12 is the real measure of success.”

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.