Archive for Friday, November 30, 2007

Program takes aim at teacher shortage

Grant will help attract science, math educators

November 30, 2007


Next year, Kansas schools will have openings for more than 400 math and science teachers.

But there won't be enough qualified Kansas graduates to fill those slots.

So those jobs could go to graduates of universities overseas who are in the United States on short-term visas. Or inadequately qualified teachers could be hired.

But a new program at Kansas University hopes to chip away at that shortage and, therefore, improve the quality of education in the state. This morning, the university will announce that the new program will receive a $2.4 million federal grant.

The program, known as UKan Teach, gives students majoring in math or one of four areas of science the opportunity to earn a secondary school teacher certification without going through the School of Education.

Recent shortage

"Kansas historically has exported teachers," said Janis Lariviere, the KU staff member who first looked into whether KU could do something to fight the growing teacher shortage. "It was only the past 10 years that there has been a problem."

In the past, the only way at KU to become a teacher was to earn a graduate degree.

"This program is designed to be completed in a typical four-year time frame," Lariviere said.

But it's also possible for math or certain science majors - those in chemistry, physics, biology and geology - to complete the program in as few as two years if they enter the program as a junior or senior.

Lariviere patterned UKan Teach after a program at the University of Texas-Austin, called UTeach. Lariviere came to KU from UT about a year and a half ago with her husband, KU Provost Richard Lariviere.

The UTeach program, which was created about 10 years ago, has had enormous success in creating and retaining teachers. Lariviere said the UTeach program produces about 70 teachers each year, 80 percent of whom are still teaching five years later.

The overall retention rate for teachers is less than 50 percent after five years, said Joe Heppert, chairman of KU's chemistry department and a co-director of the UKan Teach program.

Unique facets

The National Math and Science Initiative is awarding 10 grants of $2.4 million today to schools that will try to replicate UT's program. Like all the others, KU's grant includes $1 million that will be awarded only if KU can secure matching funds from private corporations.

Lariviere said the goal is to combine the NMSI grant and private funds into an endowment that will support some unique facets of the UKan Teach program.

Among those:

¢ The first two classes are offered tuition free; however, the program must reimburse the university for that cost.

¢ Experienced secondary teachers must be hired as teachers and advisers to students in the program.

¢ Students are offered a paid internship with a nonprofit organization, and the program pays the salary.

All this has added up to what Heppert described as a high level of interest among KU students.

"Everyone involved has been a little overwhelmed by the number of interested students," he said. "But the program is designed so lots of students can try out the entry level class and then leave if they don't like it."

"It's like a minor or a concentration," Lariviere said.

The goal is to eventually turn out about 50 new teachers annually.

One student's experience

Larry Hollingsworth is one of the first students to start the program. A nontraditional student, he wanted to leave the corporate world for the classroom.

For him, the UKan Teach program seemed the best option.

"I have had plenty of experiencing teaching in the past, but I've picked up a lot of new information through this program," he said. "This program has really added to my teaching skills."

Hollingsworth said that for someone who hasn't been in a classroom before, the program would be even more valuable. Hollingsworth is working this semester at Pinckney School in Lawrence, where he teaches three lessons in math or science.

Hollingsworth said that in two years he'll graduate from KU as a teacher - with a valuable degree in biology.

For now, the program is only offered to students who want to major in math or a science field, but Heppert said it's been proven the program can expand into fields such as foreign languages.

"But for now, we'll stick with math and science," he said.

Heppert said about 90 percent of program participants in the Texas program took teaching jobs.

"In the UTeach program, at Texas, students were twice as likely to finish their math and science degrees as their peers," Heppert said.

In addition to the grant from NMSI, the UKan Teach program recently was endorsed by the Kansas Board of Regents. Regents will ask the Legislature to appropriate extra funds to Kansas higher education for this program, which costs about $1 million annually to operate.


Kuku_Kansas 10 years, 4 months ago

There is certainly a shortage of math, science and special education teachers nationwide.

Any program that KU can offer to retain and keep quality teachers in the State of KS will only prove highly beneficial to all Kansans in the short- and long-term.

staff04 10 years, 4 months ago

Well, frankly, does in this case. People don't want to become educators because the honor of being an educator doesn't pay the rent.

Should teachers have to live in dormitories or with their families just so they can afford to be teachers?

monkeyspunk 10 years, 4 months ago

enforcer, in 2002-2003 Kansas had the 39th highest teacher pay. That the latest data I could find regarding teacher pay comparisons by state.

Now take into account that in 2007, Kansas had the 7th LOWEST cost of living by state in the nation.

Put in perspective it would seem that a lot of this complaining about the state average pay is unwarranted. Now as to whether or not LAWRENCE teachers are paid enough...I might be inclined to listen to that argument.

Think our teachers got it bad? Arizona had one of the lowest starting salaries for teachers, while the state is the 15th most expensive state to live in.

monkeyspunk 10 years, 4 months ago

*Note on the above comment about Arizona. I am not sure if the cost of living data from Arizona takes into account the very low taxes in that state.

dirkleisure 10 years, 4 months ago


If the cost of living in Kansas is so attractive, then why do the Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity, and the rest constantly tell us Kansas is bad for business?

Those two arguments don't make sense.

formerksteacher 10 years, 4 months ago

As a teacher, I can tell you that for me, the pay is not the issue. It's the hours of work!! We are technically required to be at school for 8 hours, but most of us put in a couple of hours each night, plus a full day every weekend just to keep up. Those of us who love what we do are frustrated that our jobs tend to preclude family time. And here we are the type of people who already put an EMPHASIS on families and being well-rounded. The district is trying to allow for more planning time during the day at the elementary level, but many of us hate to be taken out of our classrooms any more than we already are - just pay us a little extra for all that time we put in over the summer, weekends, etc! And DON'T tell me that other careers put in extra time, too - unless you've been in charge of a classroom every day for a few days, you have no idea how intense it can be. Teachers are more sapped at the end of a day than many professions. And most of us don't mind the time we work during the summer, it's just that we aren't recognized for it.

salad 10 years, 4 months ago

Word to all students thinking about being suckered in by this program: DON'T DO IT!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! If you're good at math and science, go do math and science. Be an engineer, be a scientist, just avoid the teaching profession. Your country is in dire need of scientists and engineers too, and you'll have better benefits, at LEAST double the pay, and tons more respect. You won't have to put up with teenage jerks who aren't interested in learning, unreasonable parents, and overpaid idiot administrators. Some other things about teaching that NO other profession has to put up with: -Did they mention that you'll have to do an UNPAID internship (student teaching) but that you do have to pay FULL tuituion to KU while you work for nothing? -If you want to get a pay raise, you have to get a masters degree, for which YOU will have to pay; the district won't help. -If you want to change teaching jobs, you'll have to quit your job first, then you can look for another job. All the school districts have agreements that they won't look at teachers currently under contract. -If you do a great job and bust your keester, or you slack and do a terrible job; you get paid the same! -If you have a triple major with honors in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, teach 6 different sections of honors classes, or you barely graduated with a degree in communications and teach one section of social studies and coach: you get paid the same! -Any zany parent or student complaint will be ASUMED to be something YOU did. -God help you if you're a male teacher and a female student hugs you because your cool.....I know I guy who lost his job this way. True story. -If you don't have "tenure" (usually automatic after 3-4 years of service) the district can terminate your contract for ANY reason, and there's nothing you can do. They don't even have to tell you why. Dare I go on? Cause there's more little hidden gems in this profession, which holds as it's moto: "No good deed will go unpunished."

Credentials: 12 years in public schools in two states, taught 3 different subject areas grades 6-12. I know of what I speak.

JayhawksandHerd 10 years, 4 months ago

Salad definitely knows of what he speaks. I went to college for the sole purpose of being a high school band director and, unfortunately, chose to ignore all the warnings from the in-service teachers I knew (including my parents). Salad's account sounds EXACTLY like my experience. It was funny...I began my career as a high school band director and, as one of the "lucky" ones, I had an extended contract and a "generous" supplement for all the extra hours involved in the position. Imagine my surprise when I decided to figure the hourly rate my supplement provided for the month of September 2003 and found that I made 58 cents an hour for each additional hour beyond the normal school day. 58 cents! My normal work week usually ran from at least 60 - 80 hours (frequently 90+ during peak times of the year), so I was in disbelief at the time (being the young, naive recent college graduate I was). I never imagined that a professional position that seemed to honorable and necessary could wind up feeling like a dead-end job. Anyway, I could go on, but until the movers and shakers of the public education arena in this country legislate for real salaries and at least minimally tolerable working conditions, things are only going to get worse.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 4 months ago

Most people who work in public or sem-public settings (police, nurses, firemen, teachers, etc.) are 'overworked and underpaid.' People work for primarily for satisfaction and internal reward, but money is certainly nice as well. Once we quit playing "school" and begin really educating the youngsters, the system will improve. Don't, however, hold your breath. The current system is set up to fail some of the kids and many of the staff, both teachers and administrators.

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