Acknowledgements and Disclaimers: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant №1340097. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Reflections on the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at California State University East Bay, 2008-2017
— The shortage of math and science teachers has reached crisis proportions. According to the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), in the 2015–16 school year, 42 states and the District of Columbia (DC) reported teacher shortages in in mathematics; and 40 states and DC reported teacher shortages in science. And, over a five-year period, from 2009 to 2014, teacher education enrollments dropped 35%, suggesting that these shortages will continue unless we find ways to successfully attract and retain qualified educators. Over the past nine years, The California State University East Bay (CSUEB) has received three Robert Noyce Scholarship and Fellowship Program grants. These grants administered through the National Science Foundation provide financial resources and support for scholarships and fellowships to support high quality candidates to complete a teaching credential in math and/or science and go on to teach in public schools. In this report we analyze data collected from 2013–2017 ( grant award number1340097) to identify key elements of the CSUEB program’s success and lessons learned in the areas of recruitment, program content, and retention.
Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grants at California State University East Bay From 2008 to 2017, California State University East Bay (CSUEB) has been the recipient of two Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grants and a Noyce Fellowship (Noyce) grant. Through these grants, the university has sought to address the critical needs for public school classroom teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). CSUEB has recruited students and professionals to pursue teaching careers, and in particular, to teach in high need schools serving low-income youth traditionally under-represented in advanced STEM courses and careers. The CSUEB Noyce grants provided approximately 100 students with fellowships, and full and partial scholarships. Throughout this period, stakeholders, including recruits, Noyce alumni Scholars and their students volunteered to participate in an evaluation process. These data collected in online questionnaires, surveys, and interviews provides valuable information about the effective components of this program.
Attracting Teachers with STEM Academic, Work and Teaching Experience
The Noyce Scholarship program at CSUEB has attracted candidates with strong STEM backgrounds, work and some prior education experiences. The majority of recruited candidates have bachelor’s degrees in STEM areas including math, science, information science, and engineering. A small number have masters degrees in life sciences subject areas, and one had obtained a doctorate in Biophysics. The program attracts both young people who are attracted to teaching, and mid-career professionals eager making career changes, but not wanting to take on the debt of getting a teaching credential. For example, one Noyce Scholar had eighteen years of experience selling scientific molecular biology chemicals to scientists within the biotechnology industry, and another had been an aerospace engineer, and a third, a mechanical engineer.
Recruitment: Mentoring Relationships and Financial Incentive
Data collected from the 2014–17 Noyce Scholars grant suggest that the majority of successfully recruited Scholars learned of the program through direct outreach by a faculty member or advisor who encouraged them to apply to the program. This suggests that the existing relationship was central to the success of the recruitment. A smaller percentage learned of the program through a non-direct e-mail outreach sent about the program or from a friend, or fellow student. Financial need was cited by 70% of Scholar recruits as one of their primary reasons for participation. Follow up surveys with currently teaching alumni echo the funding as crucial, not just for their participation in the program, but for their decision to enter a credential program, and to prioritize education, as opposed to work. One alumnus described the funding as important because it allowed her to be “able to focus on learning to be the best teacher possible instead of focusing on how to pay for my credential.” Another current teacher stated that the Scholarship provided her with the “financial support to continue in the teaching profession despite low pay.”
Effective Elements of the Noyce Scholars Program
Process: Methods Courses, Networking and Relationships
Qualitative data was collected from Noyce Scholars from 2014–17, through questionnaires and key informant interviews after their initial year in the program. Questions included items about their course work, satisfaction with program, and suggestions for improvement. The majority of Noyce Scholars, describe their methods class as the most valuable class. “My science methods course was the course that helped me the most in developing into a science teacher. In that class (our professor) showed us a lot of different ways to teach the kids science and how to engage them. Another described, “The CSUEB courses that are most effective at developing my content knowledge, is definitely my Math Methods courses. We spend time each quarter focusing on a key part of instruction and how we can teach/approach math with our students.” Scholars also identified hands-on experiences in current teaching positions, classroom observations, internships, and seminars as providing them with relevant to skills to be successful educators. In particular, several Scholars described being able to attend events attended outside of the University that provided them information about teaching diverse populations, as one Scholar mentioned, “This conference really helped me see even more what cultural responsible teaching is.”
CSUEB is a member of the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), a consortium of teacher preparation programs at 30 universities, 1 district internship program, and 1 charter school network. These institutions have joined together to develop a teacher performance assessment that provides information based on observations and artifacts of student teacher’s progress in 12 identified areas of effective teaching practices. From 2013–16, the mean total for all Noyce credential candidates with PACT scores was 26.49 of 60 possible points, slightly higher than the mean total for CSUEB credential candidates in all subject areas — 25.45 of 60 possible points. Overall Noyce Scholars mean results were slightly higher than that of other credential candidates in 8 of 12 PACT areas including: Using Feedback to Promote Student Learning; Planning — Establishing a Balanced Instructional Focus, and Using Assessment to Inform Teaching. In one category, non-Noyce Scholars showed stronger performance (Academic Language: Understanding Language Demands). In three areas, (Making Learning Accessible; Monitoring Student Learning During Instruction and Engaging Student Learning), the performance between Noyce Scholars and other credential students were too close to identify any patterns. These data suggests that the Noyce Program provides the opportunity for qualified candidates to develop their teaching skills at a level equal to, or beyond, those of other university students based on the same instruments to assess beginning teachers.
Retention and Impact on Schools and STEM Learning
Placements and Retention at High Need Schools
In general, two years after exiting the program, the majority of CSUEB Noyce Scholars continued to teach in public schools in the Bay Area. In 2016, 77% of the 35 Noyce Scholars students who had obtained a credential through the program, continued to teach in public schools. The vast majority of CSUEB Noyce alumni teach full-time. The average number of students taught per year is 138, with several having a student load as high as 175. The majority of Noyce Scholars teach high school, and approximately 40% teach at the middle school level and two at the community college level. Nearly half of Noyce Scholars are teaching at Title I schools serve more than 50% of students from low-income families, based on student eligibility for free and reduced lunch. The majority teach at sites identified by the state as under-performing compared to similar schools. From 2001 to the end of 2016, the California Department of Education used a ranking system based on annual and average scores on state assessments to develop an Academic Performance Index (API). The API provided a statewide and similar schools ranking. Nearly half (48%) of Noyce Scholars taught at schools ranked in the bottom deciles (decile 1 to decile 5), of performance based on the API, and 78% of these schools were ranked in the lower deciles as compared to similar schools.
Sparking Students’ STEM Interest
Student Survey Responses: Enthusiasm for STEM
Student enthusiasm for STEM is seen as a predictor for persistence in future learning: “The more interested students are in a subject, the more involved they become in their assignments, putting effort into their studies and engaging in deeper levels of thinking. Experts believe that increased student engagement in math, and science at school will eventually lead to involvement in math- and science-related after-school activities and career aspirations.” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, Sparking Curiosity Practice Summary). A sampling of student survey data from Noyce Scholars currently teaching had been analyzed annually, providing a total of 425 students from a sample of approximately 7500. Students of Noyce Scholars currently teaching in STEM areas were asked to rate their interest in the STEM and other areas: Technology was the subject with the highest interest from these students with 81% of students indicating medium to high interest, followed by Science (75%), Engineering (62%), and Math (69%),. The subjects of History/Social Studies (56%) and English (52%) had much lower levels of interest. Notably 50% of Noyce Scholar students expressed high interest in technology, and one in three to one in four students expressed high interest in Science, Math, and Engineering. Fewer than 5% of all students reported “no interest” in technology or science.
Student Perception of Teacher Practices
Students of Noyce Scholars were also asked about their Noyce teacher’s methods and practices. In general, students of Scholars rated their Noyce teacher highly in many key categories with between 61% and 78% of students reporting the highest level of agreement (Most of the Time) for frequency of effective practices, such as daily preparation, strong communication, and supporting student learning. A smaller majority reported consistently high expectations (60%), opportunities for discussions (59%), and developing an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable asking questions (56%). Just under half (45%) identified that their teacher provides opportunities to learn in different ways and 40% indicated that their teacher understands how they learn best, and 28% indicated that class content seemed relevant to their lives, “most of the time.” These suggest that Noyce teachers exhibit basic effective teaching patterns within their first few years of teaching, and the more nuanced levels of engagement with content, and through discourse, as well as differentiated learning opportunities have not yet been developed.
Alumni Reflections and Perceived Value of the Program
Noyce Scholar Reflection on Experiences and Preparation
Annually, Noyce Scholar alumni were asked to reflect on their experiences in the Noyce program’s effectiveness in preparing them to teach in public schools. Over 90% described the program as effective at providing support in understanding how to develop lesson plans, and supporting their own content-knowledge development; a strong majority (87%) found that they learned how to teach math and science content; and that they learned how to assess student learning (85%); and collaborate effectively with others to plan lessons (84%). Currently placed Scholars reflected positively on the collaborative support, collegiality, and content-knowledge derived from being a part of the program and indicate that the content from the courses they took was directly applicable to the classroom setting.
One teacher noted, “The Noyce Program heightened my awareness of the necessity to provide my students with a learning experience that makes them see science as an interesting, accessible and relevant field.” Another described that she was “exposed to some of the best science teachers — observed them at work and tapped into their knowledge and network, allowing my students to benefit from their expertise as well. I had the opportunity to observe and work with real world scientist in a research setting. The program also keeps me constantly updated and informed about new developments and ideas in the field of science education.” Several teachers described the program’s collegiality, emphasis on sharing ideas, and networking opportunities as valuable, “Having the opportunity to collaborate with other science teachers at the national conference in Washington DC” was the most valuable part of the program. Another teacher described, “Networking, support from other students and professors” as very valuable.
For several teachers the program’s emphasis on supporting diverse learners was very effective. For example one teacher described, “The most valuable learning aspect of my participation in the Noyce program was learning how to support students of different cultural backgrounds in my classroom.” Another described, “I thought that my ELL classes and Special Ed classes were helpful in developing good strategies for those subsets of students.” Another teacher described the Noyce program’s emphasis on “Teaching students from different ethnicities and English Learners” as very valuable and another that the courses provided “different ways to reach students of different socio-economic backgrounds.”
Areas of Possible Improvements for Teacher Preparation
Noyce teachers described the areas in which they wished they had more preparation. These included very practical aspects of teaching. For example, one teacher noted: “Classroom management, time management.” A teacher reflected, “My behavior management is still awful, but Dr. X did give us great insight and ideas about that. It is just one of those things you get better with over time.” Another teacher described, “I wish I had more training in are the logistics and regulations involved in being in a school laboratory.” Another wrote about the need for more skills in teaching diverse learners and differentiation within the class, “Ways to reach more students at different levels within the same class with each lesson plan.”
Through two Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grants, the California State University East Bay (CSUEB) has sought to address the critical needs for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by encouraging talented STEM students and professionals to pursue teaching careers, and in particular, to teach in high need schools serving low-income youth and youth that are traditionally under-represented in STEM courses. CSUEB recruitment strategies that incorporated 1:1 contact and direct-emails were identified as the most effective method. Two-years after the program the majority of the Noyce Scholars continue to teach in secondary public schools, with more than 50% teaching at high need schools including those ranked as among the most low-performing in the state. Students of Noyce Scholars describe their teachers as generally exhibiting effective practices, and alumni view the program favorably, and describe the value of their experience as including the financial resources that enabled them to focus on learning “how to teach” and not on finding resources to pay for school, but also they described the content of the courses, the relationships with faculty, the emphasis on strategies for supporting diverse learners, and the cohort and camaraderie offered by the program.
About the Author
The author of this study, Nada Djordjevich has served as the Executive Director of Gibson & Associates for seventeen years. A Bay Area educational consultant, Ms. Djordjevich has degrees from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and the University of California Berkeley. For four years, she led the external evaluation of the $27 million dollar Race to the Top District grant for New Haven Unified School District, and the evaluations of seven California Math and Science Partnership Grants. Her evaluations of the Working Together to Improve Science Education (WISE) and the Partners as Resource to Improve Math Education (PRIME) were noted by both the United States and the California Departments of Education for outstanding quality. She was selected as one only 26 individuals in California to be approved as a lead for District Assistance Intervention Teams, supporting district school reform efforts.