Occidental Awarded Record NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded Occidental College a $740,000 grant to help meet the growing demand for more K-12 math and science teachers.

 

The five-year grant--one of the largest NSF grants in Occidental history--will help educate, train and credential up to 40 highly qualified new math and science teachers. These newly minted teachers will then teach for at least two years in an urban, high-need school in the Los Angeles Unified School District such as Franklin, Eagle Rock, and Lincoln high schools.

As a result of the new grant, Occidental has created a new Math and Science Teaching Scholarship Program. The OxyMS program will award $15,000 one-time scholarships to Occidental graduates en route to a teaching career. Occidental alumni with a math or science bachelor's degree and professionals in the science, technology, engineering or math fields with U.S. citizenship or legal residency are eligible to apply.

The scholarships are meant to defray tuition and other academic costs, said Occidental assistant education professor Adelina Alegria. She and Occidental chemistry professor Chris Craney are co-investigators for the grant. Oxy mathematics professor Alan Knoerr was also instrumental in developing the OxyMS program.

"Highly qualified and caring teachers are needed, and we know there are a number of students who want to become excellent teachers, but can't afford it," she said. "So this is a great thing for us and the K-12 students."

This is not the first time that Occidental and the NSF have jointly collaborated with local K-12 teachers, noted Craney. In 1991, the NSF funded the "Teachers + Occidental = Partnership in Science" program. "This new NSF grant extends Occidental's continued collaboration with science teachers," he added.

In addition to the funding, the OxyMS Teacher Scholars will be mentored by Alegria and other Occidental professors--both on campus and in their high school classrooms as fledgling teachers. The student teachers will also benefit from bi-annual seminars and a professional network that they can tap into for support.

The $740,000 grant is part of the NSF's Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, which funds higher-education institutions nationwide to nurture K-12 math and science teachers. The NSF, along with educators and state and national lawmakers, are increasingly concerned that the U.S. is falling behind in science, technology, math, and engineering innovation compared to other countries, such as China and India.

California, in particular, faces a persistent and critical shortage of K-12 math and science teachers, according to a report by the California Council on Science and Technology and the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.