South Awarded NSF Grant to Increase K-12 Science Teachers in Local Schools
Posted on October 14, 2022
The University of South Alabama College of Education and Professional Studies recently was awarded a more than $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program. This grant will help address the shortage of certified highly qualified science teachers for grades six through 12 in rural and urban areas of Mobile County.
The new project award, “Investigating Science Teacher, Research, Education, and Methods Used to Prepare Pre-Service Science Teachers,” will be known as STREAM. The $1,189,475 grant seeks to help students in low-performing schools.
There’s also a focus on increasing racial and ethnic diversity among the number of highly qualified teachers.
“We are pleased to be awarded this outstanding grant from the National Science Foundation,” said Dr. John Kovaleski, interim dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. “This grant project also creates partnerships with Mobile County Public Schools, Bishop State Community College, the Alabama State Department of Education’s Alabama Science in Motion initiative, and the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiatives.”
The new STREAM will recruit potential science teacher candidates in the spring semesters during the final semester of their bachelor’s degree studies in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) of study. The 10-week pre-residency experience will begin in the fall semester.
Each yearly cohort will have a total of four students. The $40,000 per student scholarship will pay for tuition, books, fees and a housing stipend. The project has a goal of producing 16 new science teachers accepted into the program over the five-year duration of the grant.
Data from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress shows science scores significantly declined for the lowest performing eighth graders in physical, life and Earth, and space sciences. This finding supports the importance of proper instruction by qualified teachers when students are learning during this critical time to understand key science concepts and facts.
The principal investigator for the NSF grant is Dr. Katie Guffey McCorrison, assistant professor of science education in the College of Education and Professional Studies department of leadership and teacher education. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees and was a Noyce Scholar. After following the completion of her master’s degree, she taught earth science to ninth graders.
“As a white female teacher, I got to see the challenges and barriers that many children of color face while in an inner-city school,” Guffey McCorrison said. “I faced many challenges as a first-year teacher. I was not equipped to teach students in my classroom. But, that first-year experience inspired me to want to pursue my Ph.D. and use what I learned as a Noyce Scholar to look at the structural boundaries so that I could train other teachers to better serve all students.”
After Guffey McCorrison earned her doctoral degree, she came to South Alabama where she met and worked with Dr. Andre Green, professor of science education and associate vice president for Academic Affairs. He has been awarded nearly $9 million in grant funds from the NSF Noyce Grant program for science, and mathematics and for the annual Robert Noyce Conference. Green is the co-principal investigator for the new NSF Noyce award.
“I am pleased that Dr. Guffey McCorrison has been awarded this Noyce grant for science,” Green said. “She has compassion and a heart for helping future teachers and students. I am proud she has taken on this role. I know she will continue to help produce great teachers.”
The new science scholarship program seeks highly qualified candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in science, physics, chemistry, biology, geology or engineering.
“As we continue to be one of the leading institutions of higher education on the Gulf Coast, we are very proud to receive this new Robert Noyce Grant from the NSF,” Guffey McCorrison said. “I am very passionate about Noyce and what it stands for. I am also grateful for all the work that Dr. Green has done to make sure our teachers are prepared no matter what child they provide classroom instruction to. I was able to use Dr. Green’s model when writing this new grant. I value his expertise and his success with students from urban areas.”
Several faculty members from the College of Education and Professional Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences at South will support this project. Other co-principal investigators are Dr. David Forbes, professor of chemistry; Dr. Justin Sanders, associate professor and department chair of physics; Dr. Tres Stefurak, associate dean in the College of Education and Professional Studies and professor of counseling psychology. Dr. James Van Heneghan, professor of professional studies, will manage the evaluation of the program.
Nearly 1,800 students are enrolled in the USA’s College of Education and Professional Studies this fall semester. The College has awarded 17,681 degrees throughout its history. The College also has the largest teacher preparation program on the Gulf Coast, with more than 85 percent of educators in the greater Mobile area having at least one degree or teaching certificate from the college.
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