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$1.2 million NSF grant will train and support Vassar math and science students to teach in high need school districts.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Vassar College will provide pre- and post-graduation training and financial support for fourteen standout math and science students to become teachers in high need public school districts, with a 5-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Participants will be required to teach for two years in a high need district for each year they receive a scholarship from the Vassar Noyce Teacher Scholarship program.

Vassar's local program partners will be the City of Poughkeepsie School District and the Hyde Park Central School District, where students will observe and assist veteran science and math teachers, as well as fulfill their student teaching practicum in the semester after they graduate. The Vassar Noyce Teacher Scholarship program is also partnering with the regional Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Education. 

Professors Charles Steinhorn (project director / mathematics), J. William Straus (biology), Cindy Schwarz (physics), and Christopher Bjork (education) are Vassar's academic team for the Noyce program, coordinating with an experienced science educator from the nearby Arlington School District. Key program elements will include:

  • Summer science education and research internships for prospective participants.
  • Junior and senior year scholarships for participants, as well as pre-professional activities with teachers from high need school districts.
  • Close mentoring from faculty members in the STEM fields [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]
  • Certification in Vassar’s highly rated teacher education program.
  • Post-graduation support for professional development and job placement, including forums and workshops for new teachers.

Among the key goals articulated in Vassar's proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), is that the college's new program, “will have a significant multiplier effect as these teachers work in high need districts and thereby prepare and motivate students from underserved groups to raise their educational aspirations, including the college level study of mathematics and science.”

The NSF defines a high need school district as one that has: a high percentage of individuals from families with incomes below the poverty line; a high percentage of secondary school teachers not teaching in the content area in which the teachers were trained to teach; or a high teacher turnover rate.

Vassar's NSF proposal goes on to say that, “The project will tap significant interest in K-12 [kindergarten-12th grade] STEM education, civic engagement and service among Vassar students.” Moreover, because Vassar is one of the few undergraduate or predominantly undergraduate colleges to earn support from the NSF’s Noyce Teacher Scholarship program in the past decade, the college intends for its Noyce project to become a model for similar institutions, who have both strong STEM curricula and high-ability students interested in K-12 teaching.

Through its successful educational outreach programs, such as Vassar Science Scholars and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Internship Program, the college has already gained considerable experience enriching future math and science teachers and engaging K-12 students from high need school districts. Annually for nearly fifteen years Science Scholars has brought Poughkeepsie High School sophomores, juniors, and seniors together with Vassar natural sciences professors for eight Saturday morning-long workshops, that combine subject study with access to the Vassar libraries and advice on college admission and financial aid. In the latter program, Vassar students are paired with a local elementary, middle or high school science teacher to not only gain teaching experience, but also to provide material assistance to the Poughkeepsie public schools’ science programs.

Since 2005, Vassar science faculty members have secured $10.5 million in research grants.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, November 1, 2010