News this Week

Science  01 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5829, pp. 1264

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    Mammoth-Killer Impact Gets Mixed Reception From Earth Scientists

    1. Richard A. Kerr
    ET debris?

    Possible impact markers such as glasslike carbon (left) and carbon spherules (right) are found in the black mat layer (bottom).


    ACAPULCO, MEXICOA headline-grabbing proposal that an exploding comet wreaked havoc on man and beast 13,000 years ago got its first full scientific airing at a meeting here last week. Many geoscientists who attended nearly a day of talks and posters on the putative impact called the idea cool. But they're not dashing off to rewrite the textbooks yet.

    A loose consortium of more than 25 scientists is arguing that a massive comet exploding in the atmosphere over North America wiped out the mammoths, terminated the founding Paleo-Indian culture, and triggered a millennium-long reversion to an ice age climate. We're quite sure there was an impact, says analytical chemist Richard Firestone of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, one of the consortium's two leaders.

    Not so fast, say veterans of decades-long wrangling over how cosmic collisions have affected Earth and the life on it. There is some interesting evidence that deserves study, says cratering researcher Peter Schultz of Brown University, a member of the consortium who did not attend the meeting. But the evidence for an impact is too new and unconventional to be conclusive.

    The impact wars have been raging since scientists first began working out geologic markers for ancient impacts in the 1960s. By the 1980s, researchers found 65-million-year-old sediments that contained too much of the element iridiumrare on Earth but enriched in meteorites. That discovery pointed the way to mineral grains scarred by the shock of the impact that killed off the dinosaurs. Geologists eventually found the crater from that impact.

    In the 1990s, geochemist Luann Becker of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues said they had found impact markers at the mother of all mass extinctions, the Permian-Triassic 251 million years ago (Science, 23 February 2001, p. 1469). These markers included metallic grains and molecular cages composed of carboncalled bucky-balls or fullerenesfilled with extraterrestrial helium. Three Science papers later, however, Becker's group has failed to make its case for a Permian-Triassic impact. In fact, despite considerable effort, no one else has found fullerenes or extraterrestrial helium at the Permian-Triassic boundary.

    Now Firestone and some of his consortium colleagues, including Becker, say they have found nearly a dozen kinds of recent impact markers at 26 sites from California to Belgium. Most of the supposed markers are new types; many have never before been reported in the geologic record.

    The consortium got its start in 1999 when retired archaeologist William Topping of Deming, New Mexico, approached Firestone with unusual mineral grains from sediments at Gainey, Michigan. The grains came from the base of a black layer rich in organic matter left during the Younger Dryas, a cold snap that began 12,900 years ago and lasted 1000 years. The black mat lies just above the last arrowheads and spear points crafted by the Paleo-Indian Clovis people, as well as the last bones of the mammoths the Clovis hunted.

    From the odd composition of the Gainey samples, Topping and Firestone inferred that the sediments had been tagged 12,900 years ago by radiation from a nearby supernova that devastated the Western Hemisphere. In late 2004, Allen West, a retired geophysical consultant in Prescott, Arizona, offered to help with the by-then-stalled project. Other specialists soon came on board. West collected most of the samples and funded much of the work with 70,000 of his own fun money.

    Given new evidence, the researchers have discarded the supernova scenario in favor of a major collision. They believe the impacting object contributed many of their proposed markers: iridium; irregularly shaped metallic grains, some extraordinarily high in titanium; the same metallic grains melted into microspherules; nanodiamonds; fullerenes carrying extraterrestrial helium; and excess potassium-40. These markers have no way of being produced except by impact, Firestone said at a press conference at the meeting. The collision with Earth, they propose, produced other markers: soot and charcoal from global wildfires; vesicular carbon microspherules; and melted, glasslike carbon. The latter two carry the nanodiamonds.

    Because they have found no crater or shocked minerals, West and Firestone say the alien object probably did not slam into the ground. They believe an icy comet several kilometers in diameter and dirtied with rock and carbon approached Earth and broke up into bits, as comet Shoemaker- Levy did before it hit Jupiter in 1994. Each fragment exploded in the atmosphere over North America before reaching the ground, in their scenario. The resulting shock waves and heat would have devastated the plants, animals, and humans below. The heat could also have melted enough of the ice sheet then on North America to put a freshwater lid on the North Atlantic, shutting down the warm-water ocean conveyor and plunging much of the hemisphere into the Younger Dryas cold spell.

    Most listeners at the meeting gave the Younger Dryas impact a polite, sometimes welcoming reception. But the one specialist in impact markers who heard out the presentations isn't so sanguine. It's similar to the situation with the Permian-Triassic impact proposal, says David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. The proposed signatures for an impact event shouldn't be dismissed, but they need to be tested. Until they are, one has to look at them a little skeptically. Iridium, for example, might have been concentrated by slowed sedimentation or even by algae. The charcoal could well be from Clovis fire pits. And Kring says the extreme titanium levels and the nanodiamonds embedded in melted carbon make no sense to him.

    A paper in review at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may answer a few key questions about the comet clashand perhaps lure combat-weary impact specialists back into the fray.

    • Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union, 22-25 May.


    NIH to End Chimp Breeding for Research

    1. Jon Cohen

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world's largest funder of chimpanzees used in biomedical research, announced last week that it was effectively phasing itself out of the business. Officially, it's a money-saving move, although animal advocates are taking credit for making it happen.

    Barbara Alving, director of NIH's National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), revealed at her institute's advisory council meeting on 22 May that NCRR had decided to make permanent its long-standing moratorium on breeding chimpanzees for research, which was set to expire in December. NCRR currently owns or supports 650 research chimpanzees, and Alving said the institute could not afford to breed more animals, which can require up to 500,000 each over a lifetime. In fiscal year 2006, NCRR spent 10.9 million on its chimpanzees. Without breeding, this population may die out within 30 years (Science, 26 January, p. 450).

    Although animal advocates hailed the move, researchers who do studies with these chimpanzees decried it as shortsighted. It's a horrible decision, says Evan Eichler, who does genomic comparisons between chimps and humans at the University of Washington, Seattle. There are so many levels where we could regret this day. Neuroscientist Todd Preuss, who does noninvasive brain studies with chimpanzees at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, notes that chimpanzees are endangered and can no longer be imported. This is not a resource that can be reconstituted, says Preuss of the research chimpanzees. Fifty years from now, people will wonder why we did this.

    Guest of the state.

    Without NIH support for breeding of research chimpanzees, today's aging population will steadily be retired or die within the next 30 years.


    Preuss, Eichler, and other critics of NCRR's move say maintaining this large, genetically diverse population of chimpanzees could help answer pressing biomedical questions for humans about diseases such as Alzheimer's and hepatitis B and C. It also serves as an insurance policy should chimpanzees become extinct. It's penny-wise and pound foolish, says Ajit Varki, a glycobiologist at the University of California, San Diego, who studies disease differences between humans and chimps. (Another 500 or so chimps available for biomedical research are funded by primate facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and other grants.)

    Both the Humane Society of the United States and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society have called for ending the use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research. Indeed, the Humane Society claims that its campaignincluding nearly 22,000 letters to NCRRwas in part responsible for the decision. John Harding, who heads primate resources for NCRR, says the society is mistaken and that it was purely a fiscal issue.

    NCRR instituted the breeding moratorium in 1995, largely because AIDS vaccine researchers ended up abandoning the expensive chimp model when they realized that the animals typically suffer no harm from HIV. After seeking input from outside experts, NCRR extended the moratorium three times. No outside bodyincluding NCRR's chimpanzee working grouphas recommended ending breeding completely. It's very inappropriate, says Varki. Although the working group has been consulted on the moratorium before, Harding says it made no recommendation on this topic at its last meeting in March.

    Varki hopes several NIH branches might each chip in a few million dollars to restart the program. But if history is any indicator, the institutes enjoy their distance from this contentious issue.


    Researchers Fault U.S. Report Critiquing Education Programs

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    A new Education Department report that scolds U.S. science agencies for doing a poor job of evaluating their combined 3 billion education programs is itself getting a harsh evaluation from researchers. In particular, they object to its recommendation that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) should be the gold standard to judge how a program has affected students. RCTs, they argue, are ill-suited to handle the complexity of most classroom settings and fail to tell evaluators why a particular intervention has worked.

    The 87-page report was written by an interagency panel chaired by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. We've laid out the metrics for agencies to follow, says Kenneth Zeff, senior consultant for policy development within the Education Department. And we think that RCTs, when appropriate and possible, are the best way to learn if something works.

    The report includes an inventory of all federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) effortssome 105 programs across 12 Cabinet departments and independent agencies, covering everything from museum exhibits to graduate research fellowships. The panel, called the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC), also requested studies that had evaluated the effectiveness of those programs. We asked them to give us your best stuff, says one federal official involved in the process who requested anonymity. The council received 115 studies but concluded that only 10 met its test for rigorand of those, only four showed a meaningful positive impact on students.

    There's a reason that total is so paltry, say researchers. RCTs, commonly used to test the efficacy of new drugs or medical treatments, aren't appropriate for most education programs because they can't handle the complexity of the classroom or other real-world settings. Students are not pills, and evaluations that are blind to why a particular intervention works aren't very useful. It's hard to not be for rigor, says Iris Weiss, head of Horizon Research Inc., a contract research firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And they are right that an RCT is well-suited to demonstrating impact. But if you can't say when, for whom, and under what conditions it works, what good does it do you to know that something was effective?

    Math educator Jere Confrey of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, says that the report reflects business as usual by the Bush Administration. The Education Department has heavily promoted the use of RCTs through its research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences (Science, 25 March 2005, p. 1861). By putting RCTs at the pinnacle of a so-called hierarchy of study designs (see drawing), Confrey says, the report reinforces an outdated model of evaluation. Confrey, who chaired a 2004 study by the National Academies' National Research Council on evaluating precollege math programs that the ACC report cites approvingly, says the ACC picked up from our report [the fact] that most evaluations did not meet our standards. But they missed the idea of multiple evaluations, using multiple methods, to come up with a theory of change.


    The agency with the biggest stake in federal STEM education, the National Science Foundation (NSF), has funded precisely that type of work for decades. NSF officials have declined to comment publicly on the report, which was released 10 May by the Education Department, and researchers say that they aren't surprised. As one researcher who requested anonymity noted, I think they are hunkering down and hoping that the emphasis on RCTs fades once this Administration leaves office.


    U.S. Immigration Bill Would Extend Warmer Welcome to Highly Skilled

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    A clock began ticking for India's Anjali Mahajan as soon as she finished her Ph.D. in biophysics from Ohio State University in Columbus last December. Under U.S. immigration rules, Mahajan had 1 year to find an employer willing to sponsor her for a work visa, known as an H1-B. The window seemed far too short to find the job she wanted, as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. Returning to India wasn't an attractive option, either, because her husband had a good U.S. job.

    And so, in April, she settled for plan B, which was to remain in academia. By accepting a position as a postdoc at the University of Illinois, Chicago (her husband got a transfer there), she's all but guaranteed a timely work visa because of a rule exempting academic jobs from the annual H1-B cap of 65,000.

    Foreign students may have more of a choice than Mahajan did if Congress passes a massive immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate began debating last week. Two provisions in the 628-page legislation would help somebody in Mahajan's position. One would increase to 2 years the time allowed for foreign students to obtain an H1-B. The second would increase the H1-B cap from 65,000 to 115,000, with the option of raising it to 180,000.

    The overall bill would alter the landscape of high-tech immigration. One of its pillars is a framework for a new merit-based system of granting permanent residency to immigrants that would strongly favor young workers with advanced degrees in science and engineering fields, including Mahajan. Under this system, individual applicants would be awarded points toward their so-called green card based on specific criteria such as a graduate degree, employment in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) occupation, a recommendation from a U.S. employer, and fluency in English. (Mahajan's score would be 80 points out of 100, a fairly high rating.) The 140,000 applicants with the best scores would receive green cards annually. After 8 years, the number would rise to 380,000 a year.

    The bill (S. 1348) has drawn mixed reactions. Allowing students 2 years to find a job in their field is a good move that would help draw more global talent to U.S. universities, says Debra Stewart, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Graduate Schools. But Stewart is ambivalent about the point system. It appears to have been successful in some countries, but its specifics will determine whether it would increase our competitive position.

    Top scorer.

    A foreign-born scientist with a graduate degree who has worked in the United States for 5 years would earn 90 points toward a green card under the Senate bill.


    Those specifics are already causing heartache. Businesses feel they are being pushed aside. Unlike the current system, which hinges on employer sponsorship, a recommendation from an employer earns only a handful of points. The points don't ensure that the worker will be fully employed and beneficial to the economy, says B. Lindsay Lowell, a demographer at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Lowell would like the employer's word to carry more weight.

    Observers say that the system could also mean fewer foreign students at U.S. universities, as a graduate degree has the same value regardless of where it is earned. A better way of attracting and retaining foreign talent would be to staple green cards to the degrees of foreign students graduating with master's and Ph.D.s from the U.S., says Lynn Shotwell of the American Council on International Personnel in Washington, D.C. These are people that we simply don't want to turn away.

    Shotwell says the point system also leaves applicants guessing whether they will qualify for permanent residency. In contrast, Canada and Australia allow individuals who reach a set passing mark to become residents. The message it sends to a skilled foreign worker is: Examine your options, she says. If one country says you can get residency, buy a house, get settled, and move on with your life, and the other country says: 'We can't guarantee that you will get it,' where would you rather go?

    Although Shotwell thinks the bill doesn't go far enough in welcoming foreign talent, others say it recklessly flings open the doors. Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., which favors stricter laws, says that some of the bill's provisions will continue to depress the wages of U.S. workers. Instead of raising the H1-B cap, Martin says, Congress should restructure the program so that it responds to real market need for foreign workers through metrics such as rising salaries for workers in a particular job classification.

    Martin also opposes doubling the time allowed for foreign students to find a job. He says that the change simply creates a new category of workers who can be taken advantage of by American employers before being hired permanently.

    Legislative aides predict that the provisions increasing the H1-B cap and the time to find a job will remain in the bill, which will be voted on later this summer, but that the merit-based system will face close scrutiny.


    Stern Looks for Way Out of NASA's Budget Squeeze

    1. Andrew Lawler
    Small is good.

    If Alan Stern has his way, NASA will orbit more small satellites like this one from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.


    His 5.4 billion budget is stretched thin, but NASA's new science chief doesn't plan to cancel space projects nearing launch or ask for more money. Instead, Alan Stern says he intends to beef up lunar science, champion smaller and less complex spacecraft, and insist on hard-nosed cost estimates before larger missions can win approval.

    Stern, a planetary scientist who took over on 2 April, laid out his plan to revamp the agency's troubled science effort in his first wide-ranging discussion with reporters on 24 May. Fitting the rising cost of several missions in a science budget that's unlikely to grow beyond the 1 increase for 2008 proposed by the Bush Administration is clearly a priority. I don't have to kill any missions, he insists. But he said NASA will consider firing those principal investigators in charge of missions that spiral out of control.

    He also wants upcoming decadal studies by the National Academies to put a ceiling on the cost of any particular mission, adding that NASA is willing to plow millions of dollars into independent estimates for use by the academies' panels. A 1 May academies' report agrees that better cost estimates are critical. Joseph Alexander, study director of that report, says that scientists on the panel are sympathetic in principle to including what Stern calls a tripwire. But he cautioned that it's not clear how specific a survey can or should be in laying out costs.

    Stern also wants to do for the moon what NASA did in the 1990s for Mars, when it committed to flying a mission to the Red Planet every 2 years. Starting with a 20 million fund in 2008, Stern wants to create a buzz for what he calls spectacular lunar science. That effort, along with targeted missions to the moon, could make use of spacecraft already planning to use Earth's gravity on their way to other destinations as well as space telescopes. Good results feed on good results, he says. You don't conscript people into scientific fields; they go where the excitement is.

    He also defended NASA's approach to earth sciences, which has been criticized for a lack of attention to global climate change. We'll be very aggressive in backing the academies' recent decadal study of the field, he says, citing the recent restoration of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission. He also promised greater use of cheaper suborbital missions from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. We're going to advance the ball on earth sciences, he says, and we're going to turn heads in doing it.


    Australian University Is Latest to Pull Up Stakes in Singapore

    1. Dennis Normile

    Singapore's hopes of becoming a regional center for higher education suffered a setback on 23 May when the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, announced it is abandoning plans to establish a comprehensive university there. The new school was to be a key part of Singapore's Global Schoolhouse vision, which aims to foster a knowledge-intensive economy.

    Both sides had high hopes 3 years ago when Singapore chose UNSW from among 15 aspirants to build a university to complement three existing local institutions (Science, 30 April 2004, p. 663). Plans called for the campus to eventually enroll 15,000 students and house biotechnology and related research that would fit with Singapore's push to become a biomedical powerhouse.

    UNSW Asia opened its doors last March with 148 students, less than half of the 300 it had hoped for. Second-semester enrollment was also anticipated to fall short of the university's target. The venture is unsustainable, UNSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer said in a statement. UNSW Asia is slated to shut down on 28 June. A key factor behind the decision's timing is that construction was to begin soon on 96 million worth of buildings, says UNSW spokesperson Judy Brookman. The university will assist current students in transferring to its Sydney campus or to Singaporean institutions.

    This is not the first time that Singapore has hit a snag in its efforts to lure foreign universities to the island nation. In 2005, talks with the University of Warwick, U.K., to establish a second comprehensive university collapsed, reportedly after concerns about costs and academic freedom. And last June, Singapore's government and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, shut down a joint research and education program amid acrimonious claims over who was to blame for failures to meet goals on faculty recruitment, student enrollment, and technology transfer to local industry, among other issues.

    Singapore says it is undeterred by the latest defection. We are fully committed to developing Singapore into a premier education hub, the Economic Development Board (EDB), which is spearheading Global Schoolhouse, said in a statement. An EDB spokesperson says that the few failures must be viewed against a long list of successes, including a branch of INSEAD, a French business school offering MBA programs since 2000. And plans are afoot for Duke University Medical Center and the National University of Singapore to establish a medical school using Duke's curriculum.

    One lesson from UNSW's about-face is that it is not easy to set up an off-shore campus, especially one combining teaching and research, says Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. Universities with international ambitions have been unable to persuade key faculty members to uproot and move to unfamiliar locations, he explains. There is no successful example to follow, Altbach says. UNSW could not succeed where others have failed.


    A New Twist on Training Teachers

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Major U.S. research universities are beginning to steer some of their best students into the classroom in order to address a serious shortage of quality science and math teachers


    Heather McKnight didn't think she was throwing away her career by wanting to become a science teacher. But that's what her professor warned when McKnight broached the idea of teaching in the public schools during a summer research stint in a nanofabrication laboratory at Cornell University. McKnight had gotten a similar reaction from faculty membersand fellow students, for that matterat Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, another research powerhouse, where she spent her freshman and sophomore years as a physics major. They just didn't seem to care about teaching, or about me, she recalls. All they cared about was their research.

    The next year McKnight did a summer research project at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, and loved it. The teachers cared, and the classes were more fun. So McKnight transferred to BYUand last month she graduated with a physics degree and a certificate to teach secondary school science. She's finishing up an on-campus jobdesigning an online virtual science program for an academic publisherwhile she sifts through several offers for a high school teaching spot back east.

    Last year, BYU, a private institution run by the Mormon Church, graduated roughly 5 of all the new physics teachers produced by U.S. colleges and universities in 2006. Its class of 16 dwarfs the production of any other university and even most states. McKnight didn't know that fact when she arrived in Provo after completing a 2-year church mission in Spain. But she knew the introductory science teaching course she had taken, from former Utah state physics teacher of the year Duane Merrell, was incredible. And what I loved most, she says, was the linkage between the laboratory and the classroom, the science and the pedagogy. That's what had been missing everywhere else.

    McKnight's odyssey may suggest some answers to perhaps the most pressing question of the day for U.S. science policymakers: How can the country produce more and better science and math teachers? This spring, Science visited BYU and two other campusesthe University of Texas (UT), Austin, and the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-B)that are tackling the question in different ways. Administrators on each campus have data to back up their claims that what they are doing is working.

    At Texas, the effort is called UTeach, a multifaceted 10-year-old program that has become a national role model for turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors into classroom teachers. The UT approach, well-funded and comprehensive, begins with a frontal assault on the problem by encouraging all entering STEM majors to consider teaching. Those attracted into UTeach get classroom experience in local schools beginning in the freshman year and take courses in pedagogy in parallel with their STEM major. The goal is to graduate students in 4 years with a science major and a teaching certification (see p. 1275).

    Teaching trailblazers.

    UTeach graduate Marshall Hester (left) has taught biology for the past 5 years at Travis High School in Austin, Texas. Science educator Duane Merrell (top) works with BYU undergraduates in a physics class. Above, Ian Thacker (left foreground) helps other University of Colorado, Boulder, students in his role as a learning assistant for an undergraduate physics class.


    Colorado is pursuing an innovative strategy that uses learning assistants (LAs) for peer-assisted teaching in introductory science and math courses. The program gives STEM majors their first taste of teaching, as aides to the professors. Concurrently, all the LAs attend a weekly class on education and learning theory that is taught by master science and math teachers. A small percentage of LAs who decide to become teachers later get classroom experience in local schools and take additional pedagogy courses (see p. 1276).

    The BYU program is built upon old-fashioned nurturing of every STEM undergraduate with an interest in teaching. It's rooted in the idea that science and math departments should take responsibility for training future teachers, working with master classroom teachers who know how to combine content and pedagogy. It also takes advantage of the fact that many students, including McKnight, have already completed a 2-year mission for the Mormon Church that has often given them their first taste of teaching along with their religious activities. Those students tend to be more certain of their career goals, say BYU administrators, and ready to take advantage of a program that combines research and education objectives (see p. 1272).

    These are not the only U.S. universities and colleges experimenting with ways to improve the supply and training of teachers for the nation's schools. By far the largest test bed is in California, which has begun a two-pronged attempt to massively increase the output of STEM teachers by its state-supported universities (see p. 1279). Some programs, including a portion of the California initiative, are consciously modeled after UTeach. But the decentralized nature of U.S. higher education, as well as different state requirements for teacher certification, mean that even a highly regarded program must be adapted to local conditions.

    Despite these differences, educators seem to agree on the essential ingredients for a successful program. They include:

    Sending talented undergraduates the message that teaching is valued.

    Giving students an opportunity for early classroom experiences so they can find out whether teaching is right for them.

    Enlisting experienced classroom teachers in shaping curriculum, mentoring students, and working with faculty members.

    Teaching the subject matter along with the pedagogy courses.

    Strengthening links between science departments and schools of education on campus.

    Persuading faculty members that good teaching is part of their job.

    Incorporating these ingredients into their programs hasn't been easy for BYU, CU-B, and UT, however. And the transformation is far from over.

    The challenge

    The push to improve U.S. math and science education is being fueled by a depressing stream of state and national assessments documenting poor performance, as well as international tests showing that U.S. students do progressively worse than their peers as they move through the education system. The sense of urgency is captured in the title of a 2005 report by the National Academies (Science, 21 October 2005, p. 423), Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The report asserts that more and better science and math teachers are essential for continued U.S. leadership in science, the engine driving the U.S. economy.

    Shopping for data.

    BYU student teacher Heather McKnight enlisted sandbags and shopping carts to help a middle school science class understand the concept of acceleration.


    The current shortage of math and science teachers in middle and high school is the result of many factors, including the lure of higher-paying industry jobs, high attrition and burnout, an aging workforce, and a growing school-aged population. Unlike vacancies in the private sector, however, a teacher shortage doesn't translate into a teacherless classroom. Rather, too often the position is filled by an out-of-field teacher; that is, someone with little or no college training in the subject. In 2000, for example, two-thirds of high school physics students were taught by teachers who didn't major in physics. Even for a core subject like math, the figure is 31.

    A move is under way to change that. The current Congress is awash in legislation that embraces the Gathering Storm report's call for 10,000 teachers, 10 million minds by expanding federal support for undergraduates majoring in STEM fields (Science, 4 May, p. 672). Bills passed recently by the Senate (S. 761) and the House (H.R. 362 and H.R. 2272) would authorize hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which gives money to STEM majors who agree to teach in high-need school districts. Another set of bills just introduced (H.R. 2204 and S. 1339) would create a similar program at the Department of Education. Spending bills to fund such programs starting next year are just beginning to move through Congress. In the meantime, the private sector isn't waiting. This month, the ExxonMobil Foundation will hold a meeting in Texas about its 125 million National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) that hopes to replicate the UTeach program at dozens of college campuses (

    Although money is always needed, many science departments actually have a bigger problem with the very idea that they should help prepare the next generation of science and math teachers. That job has traditionally been left to schools of education. It's a sea change for major research universities, who traditionally have never prepared teachers, says Bruce Alberts, a biochemist at the University of California, San Francisco, and past president of the National Academy of Sciences, who made improving science education one of his priorities during his 12-year tenure.

    Equally radical is the concepteagerly embraced at BYU, UT, and CU-Bof tapping into the knowledge of experienced classroom teachers to improve campus-based instruction. By hiring people with many years of experience teaching science in the local schools, the three universities have challenged the sanctity of disciplinary boundaries and overturned the conventional wisdom that faculty members in each department are the font of all wisdom in their subject.

    When I started out, I thought that anyone who had a degree could teach college, says Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the UT College of Natural Sciences, who created the UTeach program. And students at a major research university like UT probably can survive any type of teaching. But it's so easy to turn off kids from science. By working with the college of education, we can help faculty acquire the tools to do better. Adds Michael Marder, a UT physicist and director of UTeach, The real keys to our program are the former K-12 teachers serving as master teachers, who will be the role models for our students. These are the people who wake up every day saying, 'How can I improve my teaching?'

    Most STEM teacher-training programs assume that the best teachers will have both a solid grasp and love of their subject matter. But the way most universities treat their undergraduates undercuts that assumption. Historically, students who have done well in high school science and math classes are channeled into undergraduate programs that emphasize research, not teaching. Then the best collegiate performers are encouraged to go on to graduate school. In contrast, STEM majors who choose a career in the elementary or secondary school classroom are regarded as washouts, not winners. That was certainly the message conveyed to McKnight, who grew up in a college town outside New York City with a biology professor as a father and who assumed that her interest in science would lead to a career as an academic researcher.

    The BYU, CU-B, and UT programs broadcast the opposite message, and officials at each school say that is an important ingredient in their success. Every incoming UT freshman, for example, gets an invitation from Rankin to check out the UTeach program, part of an ongoing and aggressive recruitment effort by the university. Each class in the first pedagogy course for Colorado's LAs begins with pizza and soda. Both Texas and Colorado also offer Noyce scholarships, which provide up to 10,000 a year for 2 years. We're telling those who want to go into teaching that they are our elite. That's the opposite of what we have traditionally told them, says Richard McCray, a professor emeritus of astrophysics at CU-B and a co-founder of the LA program. We're showing them that we plan to treat them wellwith scholarships and pizza.

    For love and money

    None of these programs is hugely expensive. The biggest of the three, with about 450 students enrolled, UTeach has an annual operating budget of nearly 2 million drawn from a variety of sources, including a 9 million endowment for activities not covered with state funding. And Marder has an expansionist bent. Last year, for example, UT began a program to provide more first-year students with early research experiences using a grant from NSF and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. By involving science faculty members and enlisting second-year students as peer instructors, the initiative mirrors some aspects of Colorado's LA program. Marder's goal is to reach one-quarter of each freshman class, with the hope that some of them will decide to be teachers.

    Valerie Otero, who directs Colorado's LA program, has also been adept at attracting outside funding. The LA program began officially in 2003 with a 900,000 NSF grant, and the next year it got a 300,000 boost from a physics teacher education consortium ( funded by NSF and the American Physical Society. Last year, NSF gave the Colorado team 1.5 million over 3 years to study its success in improving student learning and filling the teacher pipeline. It's in line for 1 million more from NSF in 2009, Otero says, thanks to the university's recent decision to commit 360,000 over the next 3 years.

    First steps.

    Amanda Geist (left) and Michelle Stachurski explore how children learn science in a class for learning assistants at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


    At BYU, university administrators say they don't need to rely on outside funding because the cost of their program is so modest. There are no stipends for LAs, no tuition waivers for initial classroom experiences, no payments to mentor teachers. Not even free food. Earl Woolley, dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, says the budget for the science education program is nothing compared to the 100,000 or so that it costs to support a single graduate student. By his calculation, once we got [Merrell's] position, we spent 25,000 the first year on equipment for field experiments and anything else that he asked for. But he scrounged most of it.

    Universities new to the game can get help in adopting some or all of the program from the UTeach Institute, which was formed last year to disseminate the programs' findings after Marder and Rankin started getting calls from universities wanting to know more about what they had accomplished. Next month, the institute is hosting a conference for applicants to ExxonMobil's initiative, which this fall hopes to give out 10 or so 2.4 million grants to universities interested in replicating the UTeach program. If the initiative raises enough money, says CEO Tom Luce, a retired Dallas lawyer who came back to Texas last fall after a stint as assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Education, the number could eventually swell to 50 sites.

    CU-B has applied for a grant, seeing it as a way to grow its program. We have about 50 math and science majors in the pipeline, and our goal for year 4 would be to quadruple that number, says Colorado's Otero. We feel that's doable, if their program is as good at recruiting students as they say it is.

    In contrast, BYU declined to submit an application. University administrators didn't see the need to seek outside funding for something that they were already doing and would eventually have to finance themselves, anyway. Indeed, the final 1 million of the NMSI grant, which would create an endowment, is contingent on a university match that demonstrates a commitment to sustaining the changes made possible with NMSI funding.

    For one of UTeach's newest master teachers, 32-year-old Jason Erman, becoming a teacher was never about the money. A computer science major at Carnegie Mellon, he walked away from a well-paying job at an Austin software company during the height of the dot-com boom that he says was paying me more money in my first year out of school than I'll probably ever earn as a teacher. After completing UTeach's master's program, he taught math for 5 years at Kealing Middle School in Austin before signing up last fall to help train the next generation of teachers. Likewise, McKnight says that she turned down a full-time job at the publishing company that would pay her a lot more than what she'll earn as a teacher.

    Their career paths affirm the importance of what's happening at UT, CU-B, and BYU. It just feels like the right thing to do, says Erman. And it's something that the country needs.


    BYU Takes Team Approach Led by a Master Teacher

    1. Jeffrey Mervis
    Full-service education.

    BYU's annual output of secondary school science teachers dwarfs that of most universities, and even some states.


    PROVO, UTAHDuane Merrell looks like a high school science teacher. Which is a good thing, because that's exactly what Brigham Young University (BYU) wanted when it hired the award-winning Utah physics educator 3 years ago into a new position as a clinical faculty member. But driving around in his Isuzu pickup to visit student teachers and their mentors in schools across the Wasatch Valley, the rumpled, laconic 47-year-old Mormon also comes across as a modern-day sheriff of higher education, out to restore order on the nation's chaotic frontier of training science and math teachers.

    So far, Merrell is making his presence felt. BYU's annual production of science teachers exceeds those for many states, let alone individual institutions, which suggests he's doing something right.

    Although its affiliation with the Mormon Church adds a distinct service component to its educational mission, BYU traditionally did little better than the average U.S. research university in producing science teachers. We had seen a decline to about one or two graduates, in a program that resided within the College of Education, explains Earl Woolley, dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (MPS) at BYU. To help turn things around, Woolley says, the college of education agreed to transfer the program and faculty slot [to MPS]. We realized that we had to increase the engagement of our science faculty in educating teachers. And we needed the right person to make that happen. He adds: The biggest single thing that we've done in the past 10 years for training science teachers was our hiring Duane.

    Merrell, who has received a presidential teaching award and numerous state teaching honors, teaches three courses that form the core of the physics education curriculum (along with more traditional education courses and student teaching). Students must complete all but three courses of what's needed for a traditional physics degree, and many students find a way to cram those additional courses into their schedule. Merrell's goal is to connect the pedagogy with the science so that these future teachers will have multiple ways to engage their students. Despite a heavy teaching load, he tries to get off campus and into the schools as much as possible, checking on the progress of the students, offering tips on how to present a lesson or lab, and helping them prepare for the profession they have chosen. Merrell hand-selected many of the students' mentors and created a teachers' advisory council to tap their expertise. It's the first time we had asked their opinion about what we were doing, he notes.

    Duane is something special, says Tom Erekson, a mentor physics teacher at Lone Peak High School, who graduated from nearby BYU in 1994 as the only physics teacher in my class. Erekson says Merrell is proof of how much one person can do to invigorate a program.

    Merrell holds an open-ended faculty appointment, which gives him the institutional staying power absent from other programs in which educators spend 1 year on campus as a teacher-in-residence. My first year went by in a blur, he recalls. It was the end of the year before I realized all the changes that I'd need to make in the second year.

    Despite his celebrity status among his peers, Merrell says his work is far from over. He's on the prowl for master teachers to cover STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in which he is not expert. The so-called clinical faculty assistants will help out with large introductory courses andif they so choosetake graduate courses to further enhance their skills. He's recruited one in biology and one in math, and in the earth sciences, he's just found a hybrid who will keep one foot in the classroom. And then there's a new Physics for Inquiry class. It's designed to give students enough confidence to stick with that hands-on approach to teaching science, even when the going gets tough, rather than fall back on the traditional lecture style of teaching. It's all in a day's work for a pedagogical sheriff.


    Prime Mover: Robert Clark


    It was 1969, and physicists with newly minted Ph.D.s were allegedly driving taxis because they couldn't find academic positions. So BYU physicist Robert Bent Clark, then a junior faculty member at the University of Texas, decided to expand young physicists' career choices. He scoured the country and came up with 75 job openings for high school science teachers. Then he posted those openingsmore than the total from academiaat the job fair during the next meeting of the American Physical Society in a performance that elicited gasps from older members but heartfelt thanks from the ranks of his unemployed colleagues. The effort also launched Clark, a particle theorist, on a parallel 30-plus-year career in physics education that would include the presidency of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

    The avuncular Clark has never worried about going against the grain: At Yale, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he chuckles that I was known as the married Mormon football player. And when a faculty opening in 2000 gave him and his wife a chance to return to Utah, Clark says that I think they were expecting to hire someone right out of grad school. But they went with a graybeard.

    His colleagues say Clark is the tinder that has rekindled the university's commitment to preparing physics teachers. And when the education department handed over its slot to the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Clark called up Merrell and twisted his arm to apply.


    Junior High Means a Senior Commitment

    Hot science.

    Doug Panee lights up his physical science class.


    Doug Panee has seen a lot in his 18 years as a junior high school science teacher. But it's what he hasn't seen that makes Panee such an asset to BYU's science teaching training program. You can never think of all the things that the kids will ask, he says, with a nod toward his eighth-grade class at nearby Oak Canyon Junior High in Orem, Utah. Their creativity hasn't been stifled. He retains a similar respect for the 14 student teachers that he has mentored over the years, the latest being Heather McKnight (see main text). After all these years, I'm still learning how to teach. I certainly don't have all the answers.

    Panee is being modest, says BYU's Duane Merrell. Master teachers like Panee who are willing to share their classroom expertise and their knowledge of the profession with students have a great deal to offer the program, says Merrell. They allow students to make their own mistakesI've had teachers try to hand my kids a set of lesson plans, but that's not what the practicum is supposed to be like, Merrell explainswhile at the same time providing useful guidance on classroom management and pedagogy.

    The relationship nurtures students through their internships and into the profession, giving them the type of support Panee wished he'd had when he began his career after graduating from BYU. I was ready to quit after 3 days, he recalls. My wife and mother told me to stick it out. Nearly 2 decades later, McKnight is glad he did.


    UTeach Makes Marshall Hester a Lifer


    An overcast, humid spring day in this capital city finds Marshall Hester sweating through another biology class at Travis High School in Austin, Texas. It's an ESLEnglish as a second languageclass in a high-needs school, and Hester wrestles with his less-than-fluent grasp of Spanish, the dominant language for his students. Winding down a 3-week unit on plants, he uses his laptop computer to display a warm-up exercise showing a cross section of a leaf.

    What process is going on here? he good-naturedly pumps the students, pointing to the top layer of the drawing and straining to hear someone toss out the word photosynthesis. Then he moves down the image. And why is this layer on the bottom? he asks, hoping for a mention of respiration. I know, it's not easy, he says encouragingly. But there's also a note of frustration in his easy bantering. We just did this, and I'm a little disappointed that you don't remember.

    A graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in biology and certification to teach secondary school science, Hester was part of the second class of the university's UTeach program. Teaching was in the back of his mind after a high school biology teacher turned him on to the wonders of plants, although the initial education classes he took at UT were a drag. But the Step I and II classes were greatit wasn't easy, but it was fun, he recalls. Now Hester is hooked. He's in his fifth year of what he expects to be a career at Travis. Asked why, he responds: Is it corny to say that I'm doing it for the kids?


    UTexas Tells Science Majors: We Want U (to) Teach

    1. Jeffrey Mervis
    Positive trend.

    Texas's output of science teachers has soared since UTeach began in 1997.


    AUSTIN, TEXASThe University of Texas's UTeach is the most visible of the new wave of teacher-preparation programs. It earned an accolade in an influential 2005 National Academies' report on U.S. competitiveness, and this spring, the ExxonMobil Foundation created a National Math and Science Initiative to replicate it. Its 10-year track record is impressive: From a pool of highly qualified students, the university has more than tripled its annual production of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers and kept most of them in the classroom.

    But its success was far from preordained. In 1987, Texas changed its school certification laws to require future secondary school teachers to earn a degree in a disciplinary field. Designed to make sure that teachers acquired more content knowledge in science and math, the law was actually driving students away from those fields because of its stiffer requirements. At the same time, the state's flagship university was a bit player in STEM teacher training: Out of some 12,000 students in the UT graduating class of 1996, only five were certified to teach secondary science and only 16 in math.

    Mary Ann Rankin, dean of UT's College of Natural Sciences, decided that something had to be done to get more STEM majors into teaching. So in the summer of 1997, she asked a group of master teachers from the area's public schools to design a curriculum that could be ready to go by fall. The dean told us to assume that nothing would remain the same and not to worry about the cost, recalls Mary Long, the program's first master teacher, who remains a guiding light. And a month later we enrolled the first students.

    What Long and her colleagues drew up remains the basis for the current UTeach program. Its essential elements include aggressive recruitment of potential teaching candidates, an early exposure to the classroom as part of two tuition-free courses, a strong network of teachers in local schools who mentor UT trainees in field placements, a new sequence of pedagogy classes taught by master teachers in STEM fields, and disciplinary classes with faculty members modeling best teaching practices. Jere Confrey, a prominent math educator who helped create the curriculum before moving 4 years ago to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, says that one key change was linking each of the three new pedagogy coursesknowledge and learning, classroom interactions, and project-based instructionto the subject matter, namely, math and science. Non-content-based methods courses are silly, she explains.

    The program acquired instant credibility among the faculty when UT physicist Michael Marder agreed to sign on as director, says Rankin. He's also absorbed an incredible amount about the world of education that has been extremely valuable. Forging a partnership between the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Education, says Rankin, was another critical element. Previously, a STEM major who wanted to be a teacher would get their major in our college and then take their gen ed [general education] requirements, which, to be honest, were not the most exciting courses. The new courses, she says, are relevant to what they need to know to teach science, and they get to use their knowledge in the classroom.

    In addition to an enrollment of nearly 500, UTeach officials are especially proud of what happens once students graduate from the program. More than 80 actually go into teaching, and since 2000, some 92 of that pool have remained in the classroom. That's an impressive retention rate for a profession in which 40 of teachers leave within their first 5 years.

    From the beginning, Rankin and Marder have sought to make the program self-sustaining without cutting back on elementssuch as the tuition reimbursement for the initial field experience courses, called Step 1 and 2; internships, so that students can pursue education-related summer jobs rather than work at the mall; and stipends to mentor teachersthat could not be funded by the state. The solution, they decided, was an endowment. That's how Jeff Kodosky became the program's financial godfather.

    I was on the dean's advisory council when she first talked about it, and I was intrigued by the idea, says Kodosky, a New York native who moved to Austin for graduate school and in 1976 co-founded National Instruments, which provides measurement and automation software. It was clear we weren't producing many science and math teachers. And having an education major decide to teach science always seemed backward to me: Why not start with someone who loves science? After providing seed money for the initial curriculum, Kodosky and his wife, April, agreed in 1999 to donate 5 million. The endowment has grown to 9 million, with a goal of 15 million.


    Prime Mover: Mary Ann Rankin

    Team player.

    Rankin with UT mascot.


    Mary Ann Rankin launched the UTeach program because she believed that the College of Natural Sciences, of which she is dean, needed to become more involved in preparing secondary school science and math teachers. But it wasn't just an academic exercise. Rankin's daughter, then in fourth grade and attending a suburban school district with an excellent reputation, suddenly went from loving school to refusing to do her homework. An uninspired teacher, she recalls, had made math boring and repetitive, and the science program was nonexistent. With a twinge of guilt, Rankin says she transferred her to a private school, where she resumed her stellar academic career.

    This fall, her daughter will start college (at UT, as it happens). But elementary school science and math are still on Rankin's mind. She's thinking about jettisoning the two current science courses for elementary education majors and replacing them with a three-course sequence that would begin with a research methods course, tailored to their level, followed by a science component in the early classroom experience all UTeach students get. They would learn so much more, and we would be reinforcing the importance of science in the elementary grades, she explains. So many elementary school teachers shy away from science because they don't like it or don't understand it, and it turns off the kids at a young age.


    Colorado Also Seeks Impact on Campus

    1. Jeffrey Mervis
    Campus revolution.

    The Colorado program is affecting many aspects of university life.


    BOULDER, COLORADOThe goals of the Physics Education Research (PER) group at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-B), are as big and bold as the Rocky Mountains that loom over the campus: to improve undergraduate student learning and to produce more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers. But rather than getting their feet wet by teaching in the public schools, as with most such programs, Colorado students first interact with their peers in an approach that also aims to improve undergraduate education.

    Back in the 1990s, I won lots of teaching awards, explains Jim Curry, chair of the applied mathematics department and an early convert to the program. But then I found out that the kids in my [introductory] calculus class were struggling later on in thermodynamics, and the professor would come by and ask me why I hadn't taught them. Well, we do teach this stuff, but 2 years later they've forgotten it. The problem is that they never really learned it.

    The program, which Colorado officials have dubbed course transformation, begins with faculty members inviting top-performing undergraduate students in their introductory classes to become learning assistants (LAs) in their course the next semester. It's the first step on the ladder toward becoming a teacher. Along the way, they earn 1500 by assisting the professor during lectures as well as running weekly tutorials. In addition to helping students with homework sets, the peer tutors explain the basic concepts being covered in class. Concurrently, the LAs begin a series of pedagogy classes taught by experienced science educators intended to meld their content knowledge with the skills they will need to become effective teachers.

    The LA program is directed by faculty from the school of education and the physics department, building upon the pioneering work on physics education research done by Lillian McDermott and others at the University of Washington, Seattle. She convinced the field that physics education was really physics, says group member Steve Pollack, a physicist who migrated from nuclear theory to education after using a sabbatical to pore over the scientific literature on how students learn. We've managed to do that here, too.

    Valerie Otero, the effervescent physics educator who runs the LA program, calls Pollack one of her seekers. Together with Noah Finkelstein, the trio is studying student outcomes in LA-assisted courses at the same time they expand the number of courses, departments, and faculty using LAs. Although the group has won converts across the university, Pollack admits that most faculty members stay where I was 6 years ago. They say, 'This is good material, leave it with me and I'll use it.' But they won't do the research themselves that could take them to the next level.

    Part of the reason is that course transformation is hard work. Gabe Thatcher, who took a quantum mechanics class from Finkelstein last fall and then served as an LA for the same course this past semester, marveled at how much Finkelstein tailored his clicker questionsan interactive method of instruction developed by physicist Erik Mazur at Harvard that provides immediate feedback on how well students understand a particular conceptto the needs of the students in each class. He probably only used about 60 of the questions he had asked when I took the course, says Thatcher. I was really impressed.

    Preliminary results show that both LAs and their peers learn more science than do those not in classes with LAs, and about 15 of the LAs decide to pursue teaching as a career. (Because of high demand for a limited number of these paid slots, only students who agree to become teachers can be an LA for more than two semesters.) This fall, the program's first 11 graduates, armed with teaching certificates, will enter the classroom. That's half of the state's entire output in 2005, a year that saw CU-B graduate exactly one STEM major certified to teach.

    The on-campus component of the program also dovetails with a systematic effort to improve the teaching of undergraduate science begun by physicist Carl Wieman with money from his 2001 Nobel Prize. Last year, Wieman moved to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, which offered him more resources. But he retains an appointment at Colorado, and the staff of his science education initiative work alongside the LA program staff.


    Prime Mover: Richard McCray


    CU-B's Richard McCray has done pioneering work in theoretical x-ray astronomy that earned him election to the National Academy of Sciences. But he says that his late-career quest to understand how students learnto improve undergraduate instruction and prepare the next generation of science teachersis more of a challenge and more interesting to him. He also thinks it's more important. Bright students don't want to sit passively and listen to a lecture; they want to interact. These huge intro courses are acting as a filter. And we all need to do something about that.

    McCray stumbled onto the idea of using learning assistants (LAs) after getting a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust. The goal was to increase technology in the classroom in ways that could be sustained without more money. But I couldn't make it compute, he confessed. The traditional model, using graduate students as teaching assistants, wasn't economically feasible, he says. The only way I could do it was by using LAs; you could get seven undergraduates for the price of one grad student. And when I found that the LA experience was extremely powerful for these students, and that it got them interested in teaching, I thought, Let's exploit that.

    This spring, he also found a way to put the LA program on the road to self-sustainability, offering 120,000 if the university agreed to a three-to-one match. (The donation was made anonymously because he felt a public announcement would be too boastful.) Now retired, he's only working about 70 of the time. I helped get this started, so I'd like to keep lending a hand.


    Teaching for a Living or for Life


    Gabe Thatcher isn't a classroom teacher. And the senior electrical engineering major at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-B), may never become one. I like teaching. It's really stimulating. But I also like money, says the 27-year-old California native, speaking candidly about the anticipated gap between a 60,000-a-year starting salary as an engineer and the 35,000 he can expect to earn in the classroom. His calculations include a wife who's planning to return to school and the couple's desire for a family.

    But Thatcher is closer to teaching than most students in his field, having served as a learning assistant (LA) this past semester for an introductory physics course that he took last fall. As an LA, he also attended weekly classes on how students learn, taught by CU-B's Valerie Otero and Steve Iona, a retired local high school science teacher. Both experiences deepened his appreciation for what it takes to convey information to someone else. Even if I'm not a classroom teacher, I need to understand how my kids learn and how my co-workers learn, he explains. As a working engineer, I think being a good teacher is a key tool.


    California Heads Down Many Roads in Search of Best Training Model

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    The state's research powerhouses are feeling their way while the CSU system goes full speed ahead in producing more high-quality teachers

    Teachable moment.

    Chancellors Charles Reed (left) and Robert Dynes (right) have promised California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that their Cal State and University of California campuses will graduate more science and math teachers.


    In the nation-state of California, producing more math and science teachers has become a high-stakes numbers gamewith a bewildering number of players and more than one set of rules.

    Staring at a projected need for 33,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade, which dwarfs the state's current output, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won pledges in 2005 from the state's two public university systems to tackle the problem in return for increased state aid. The 23-campus California State University (CSU) system, which now produces about 60 of the state's teachers in all fields, agreed to double its output of 750 math and science teachers by 2010. The University of California (UC) system set a more ambitious goal from a lower baseto quadruple the 200 students now graduating from its 10 research-oriented campuses with science and math teaching credentials.

    So far, so good. But those similar goals hide important differences in how the two systems are tackling the problem. For CSU, its Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative means building on a long, proud history of training teachers. Accordingly, its changes are evolutionary, involving new paths to credentialing, improved tracking of its graduates, more partnerships with federal agencies, and novel ways to deliver high-quality coursework.

    CSU schools have already increased output by 37 since 2005, raising from 6.3 to 8.8 the percentage of science and math teachers among the total annual production of 12,000 teachers. It's a top priority for all our campuses, and we're doing it through a range of different strategies, says Joan Bissell, head of teacher education programs within the CSU chancellor's office.

    In contrast, training lots of teachers will require wrenching changes for most UC campuses, their science departments, and individual faculty members. Many of them bristled at the idea of taking a top-down approach, so last year, the Science and Mathematics Initiative (SMI), which implements the system's promise to the governor, was transformed from a program run out of the office of UC Chancellor Robert Dynes to a decentralized effort in which each school is allowed to set its own priorities and decide how best to achieve them.

    The effort to improve STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] teaching has been on the back burner nationally for 20 years, observes Fred Eiserling, a UC Los Angeles microbiologist who heads the school's SMI program and who also serves as coordinator for all UC campuses. At UCLA, we've built up our program with the help of outside grants. But it's never received the attention it deserves. SMI will allow each campus to ratchet up its efforts.

    One striking example of the different challenges facing the UC and CSU systems is their reaction to the new National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) funded by ExxonMobil to replicate a 10-year-old Texas program called UTeach (see p. 1275). Half of UC's 10 campuses have submitted applications in hopes of expanding their fledgling activities. In contrast, none of the 23 CSU schools is bidding for the money.

    Bissell says CSU plans to stay the coursewith students earning a bachelor's degree followed by full certification as part of a master's program before they began teachingrather than veer toward the UTeach model, in which students combine classroom experience, pedagogy, and core science studies in a 4-year program. Part of the reason is that Texas has different certification requirements, she says. But she also points to a recently completed 6-year analysis of 1500 California math and science teachers. It found that those who had gone through the full preparation model were better prepared and performed better in the classroom than so-called interns, a category that Bissell says would apply to most UTeach graduates.

    In comparison, UC schools were drawn to the NMSI program. SMI's second name, in fact, is CalTeach, in honor of the Texas program. But a similar name doesn't necessarily mean the same type of sweeping changes. UCLA's proposal, for 2.4 million over 4 years, for example, would permit education courses to be counted as part of the degree requirement for STEM majors.

    Eiserling makes no apologies for the incremental approach. We have 26 different science majors, across nine departments, he says. So making this change will take time, cost a lot of money, and require buy-in from a lot of people. If we can get departments to agree to allow students to substitute one of the CalTeach courses for, say, an astronomy course, it will send a message that teaching is important. And that will help change the culture.

    If history is any guide, however, even incremental changes won't come easily. In 1993, Heather Calahan graduated from UCLA and became a high school math teacher. Two years ago, she returned to help administer, as well as teach in, the school's Joint Mathematics Education Program. JMEP is a 20-year-old effort with essentially the same goals as SMI that has limped along without any of the hoopla or resources of the new initiative. The program runs on a shoestring, however, and so far, SMI hasn't meant any additional resources. In fact, a JMEP request last year for some administrative help was turned down.

    This spring, Dynes told a congressional science committee that as SMI ramps up, I predict we are going to see real magic happen. Calahan can only hope that some of the magic will rub off on those working in the trenches to prepare more science and math teachers.