University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University Part of Coalition to Create $10 Million Mathematics and Science Education Center

Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado are partnering with three other institutions to create a $10 million center aimed at enhancing the quality and increasing the quantity of math and science educators in secondary schools and higher education.

The Center for Learning and Teaching in the West is funded in part by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, with additional support from the participating institutions. The center is made up of a consortium of five universities, including three non-Colorado institutions: Montana State University, the University of Montana and Portland State University. The center also is partnering with the Portland Public Schools, Fort Belknap College and high-need rural and urban schools in Colorado and Montana. It is expected to begin operations next year. Functions of the center will be based at each institution.

"This initiative will allow us to build on more than a decade’s experience in doctoral programs in content areas and share that expertise, not only with students and school districts, but also with our partners in the center," said UNC President Hank Brown.

Al Dyer, interim provost at Colorado State, said the center is "a key example of how universities across the region can work together to leverage faculty expertise and institutional resources."

The primary goal of the center is to improve the preparation and number of highly qualified science and math educators in secondary schools and higher education. The center will focus its efforts on helping science and math teachers in high-need schools to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Participants in the center will include doctoral and post doctoral students enrolled in science and math programs and education programs at each collaborating institution. They will learn by working with center faculty from all five institutions and by working with each other on outreach and research.

Center participants can take core courses via distance technology, participate in cross-institutional research groups and travel to other participating institutions to support math and science education reform efforts in rural and urban schools. Through participation in these activities, they will gain an understanding of barriers to and opportunities for improving education in diverse communities. The center will provide practical field experiences through its partnership with the secondary schools working with the consortium.

"Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado are recognized for training and producing a significant percentage of Colorado’s math and science educators," said Ed Geary, director of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at Colorado State and co-principal investigator on the project. "We’re hopeful that through the efforts of the center, we can create a new generation of teacher leaders who will assist all Colorado students in succeeding in math and science."

UNC’s John Moore, co-principal investigator for the center and director of the UNC Math and Science Teaching Center, said its activities build on programs UNC has developed over the past 15 years.

"The Center will allow us to solidify our PhD programs in mathematics, chemistry and biology education and share our experience and expertise with our partners and a significant number of educators and students across the West," Moore said.

As one of the center’s priorities, dozens of faculty members from partnering institutions will share in adapting and developing curricula for doctoral and postdoctoral students in science and math education. The collaboration will allow the center to expand online course offerings, making it easier for teachers in isolated and low-income areas to overcome the scheduling and distance constraints that may prevent them from pursuing graduate studies.

Science and math educators who are interested in becoming leaders in education on the state and national level will participate in professional development courses-on-line and on-site. The center also is charged with conducting research on critical education topics, including how to successfully teach science and math to students in high-minority, rural, reservation, inner city and low-income schools; how to recruit and retain faculty in rural schools; how to increase minority students’ participation in math and science fields of study; and how to incorporate effective distance learning into professional development courses for teachers and science and math courses for students.