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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 8, 2009

Race to the Top grants would boost math, science teaching

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said his administration "would recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. They will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels."

Obama established the $4.3 billion Race to the Top program in February when he signed the economic stimulus package. Race to the Top is a competitive grant program that is "designed to encourage and reward states that are implementing significant education reforms."

The Race to the Top program addresses both parts of Obama's promise.

On recruiting math and science teachers, the program judges applications in part based on the state's record in "providing alternative pathways for aspiring teachers and principals ... particularly routes that allow for providers in addition to institutions of higher education ... and the extent to which these routes are in use." These alternative pathways can serve as a way for math and science graduates to enter the teaching profession without having earned specific degrees in education.

As for providing access to "a strong science curriculum at all levels," the program will look favorably on applications that emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or "STEM."

As the program guidelines put it, states should "describe plans to address the need to (i) offer a rigorous course of study in mathematics, sciences, technology, and engineering; (ii) cooperate with industry experts, museums, universities, research centers, or other STEM-capable community partners to prepare and assist teachers in integrating STEM content across grades and disciplines, in promoting effective and relevant instruction, and in offering applied learning opportunities for students; and (iii) prepare more students for advanced study and careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including addressing the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

States may apply for Race to the Top grants as early as late 2009, though applications will also be accepted in a second round beginning in the spring of 2010. So while the grant program is only beginning to be implemented, the administration has set in motion the framework for this promise to be carried out. We rate it a Promise Kept.

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