Irvine, Calif. — July 18, 2007 — The mounting severity of California´s critical shortage of qualified math and science teachers has been the impetus for the development of a vital new teacher-training program at the University of California, Irvine. The program addresses the urgent need to help new and incumbent teachers prepare for and pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), a test which measures the subject matter competency of teachers seeking credentials to teach science or mathematics in California schools. Made available as part of the University´s OpenCourseWare initiative — which allows self-learners to view and utilize materials and resources, through the Web, free of charge — the new program will serve as part of the solution to what many are calling a national crisis.
California´s shortage of fully prepared math and science teachers currently undermines the quality of the state´s education system — a problem that is only anticipated to worsen. According to projections published by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger´s office, the teacher shortage will be compounded throughout the next decade, with demand increasing by 33,000 for new math and science teachers, and the capacity to prepare only 16,000 over that period.
Not only are there not enough teachers, but the majority of those currently teaching math and science are serving out of their particular subject-matter expertise. Faced with a no-win situation, many districts are assigning English, history and art instructors, or even teachers with emergency credentials to math and science classes — a practice which ultimately impacts the quality of education students receive. In fact, nearly 1,500 mathematics and 800 science classes in California high schools are being taught by teachers lacking the appropriate credential.
"It is essential that California´s teachers receive the education, tools, and support they need to better educate our state´s K-12 students," said Dr. Gary W. Matkin, dean of continuing education at UC Irvine. "Given that a significant amount of teachers do not pass the CSET on their first attempt due to a lack of familiarity with the content and/or the format of the exams, this new open resource should prepare teachers not only to pass the test, but also to be more effective teachers."
The no-cost resource, available now at http://ocw.uci.edu/courses/AR0111006/, includes preparation courses for the following exams: CSET Mathematics Subtest I, CSET Mathematics Subtest II, and CSET Science II. CSET Science I will be available in August 2007.
While most CSET preparation courses merely ´teach to the test,´ the new resource at UC Irvine is designed to provide the subject matter content, principles, and pedagogy to help teachers be successful in math and science classrooms. Created by teachers for teachers, each online course is preceded by a diagnostic pre-test to help teachers identify weak spots and is followed by application-based tips for teaching the material, and links to other Web sites that deal with teaching the content in the most engaging formats.
"Students are more apt to be engaged in learning if their teachers are excited about the material," says Dr. Paul Narguizian from California State University, Los Angeles, and a key developer of the program´s science curriculum. "By providing teachers a resource which combines exciting pedagogical information and all the background they need to be confident in the material they are teaching, teachers can do more than merely pass the CSET — they can return to their classrooms bringing more to their students than ever before."
Ellen Fujii, mathematics coordinator for secondary schools at the Garden Grove Unified School District and leading developer of the program´s mathematics curriculum agrees. In fact she´s already spoken to teachers in her district who are excited about using the resources in the evenings and during school vacations.
"We´ve designed this curriculum to fill voids in teacher education," says Fujii. "Often we´re talking about professionals who are currently teaching full-time and lack the time to further their own education. By sharing this curriculum for free and in an easily accessible online format, teachers in even the most isolated areas can now have easy and convenient access to high-quality teaching resources."
Funded by a grant awarded from The Boeing Company and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, UC Irvine´s initiative complements the "California Teach" plan by the University of California and Governor Schwarzenegger, which is designed to graduate at least four times as many new math and science teachers — from 250 to 1,000 a year — by 2010.
The University plans to make CSET Science Subtests III – X and Mathematics Subtest III courses available, free to the public, in 2008. For more information about UC Irvine´s OpenCourseWare CSET courses, please contact Kathy Tam at (949) 824-2308.
In addition to the free online OpenCourseWare courses, the curriculum is also available through UC Irvine Extension, the continuing education arm of the University, via online instructor-facilitated courses. For more information about UC Irvine Extension´s CSET courses, please contact Angela Jeantet, director of education programs at (949) 824-5736.
About UC Irvine´s OpenCourseWare Initiative: The University of California, Irvine is the first University of California campus–as well as the only West Coast University–to join the OCW Consortium. UC Irvine´s membership in the OCW Consortium is consistent with its public and land-grant missions and its desire to play a significant role in contributing to the social welfare of the state, the nation and the world. Open Educational Resources (OER) showcase the University´s high quality education and makes courses and course materials free for everyone in the world. UC Irvine´s OCW is a large-scale, Web-based resource that houses educational assets that are discoverable, searchable, modifiable, and, best of all, free and easily available. Through the OCW Movement, UC Irvine provides university-quality courses and learning assets to populations of self learners that are underserved and in many cases, unable to participate in formal education at a university. This site also offers access to UC Irvine´s online continuing education offerings. For more information about UC Irvine´s OCW initiative, visit http://ocw.uci.edu/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.3 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.