Three young girls wearing safety goggles use beakers at a chemistry table

CREST-Ed project to train STEM teachers

by Claire Miller

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the College of Education & Human Development $7.5 million for its Collaboration and Resources for Encouraging and Supporting Transformations in Education (CREST-Ed) program, which is designed to increase the number of teachers committed to high-need schools in urban and rural settings.

The College of Education & Human Development will partner with Albany State University, Columbus State University, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future and nine county school systems to recruit, train and support 250-300 students who want to teach in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“The idea behind this grant is to broaden the scope of the work we’re doing and connect more with young people about teaching or working in STEM fields,” said Gwen Benson, CREST-Ed principal investigator. “And we want to share our knowledge and experiences with institutions who are committed to serving students in high-needs schools.”

Learning in Schools

Close up shot of student writing in a notebook and using a calculatorThe future STEM teachers trained through CREST-Ed will have access to teacher residencies, extended field experiences that put students in classrooms for the entire academic year.

Benson said the teacher residencies are a key component of preparing teachers for the demands they’ll face when they’ve graduated and found jobs at high-need schools.

“I hope that by the end of this grant, we’ve truly had an impact on teacher preparation and community members start to see the value of teacher residencies,” she said. “I’d like to see our teacher residency used as a national model.”

The grant will also implement and expand on its Cross Career Learning Communities initiative – which brings teachers and administrators together to discuss best practices and increase student achievement – and develop Practitioner Learning Communities to allow for discussions around more specific subject areas, such as math, science and literacy.

Community Outreach

Though many of CREST-Ed’s programs incorporate college students and current teachers working in the field, it will also reach out to high school students interested in teaching math and science by expanding the college’s Academy for Future Teachers (AFT) to Albany State and Columbus State.

This three-week summer program invites rising juniors and seniors to campus to discuss education, communication styles and professional development, as well as learn ways to teach math and science for elementary, middle and high school students. AFT also incorporates Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Standards, a new statewide accountability system aimed at ensuring all Georgia public school students are prepared for higher education and career opportunities.

Benson also hopes to see more parental involvement through this grant, as faculty from the college’s Department of Kinesiology and Health develop nutrition classes for high school students at partner schools – and their families – to attend, and the college’s Center for School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management brings its research on bullying and cyberbullying to the table.

Sustaining School Partnerships

The CREST-Ed grant is the third major grant project the College of Education & Human Development has received to develop partnerships with local K-12 schools and train teachers to serve traditionally underserved populations.

In 2003, the five-year, $6.5 million Professional Development School Partnerships Deliver Success project (PDS2) helped the college reach out to schools in metro-Atlanta to share current research, professional development opportunities and strategies to improve student achievement.

The college expanded its K-12 school partnerships in both rural and urban areas when it received a $13.5 million Teacher Quality Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 to establish the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) project.

With the new CREST-Ed grant, Benson said the college will be able to maintain the collaborative partnerships it’s cultivated since 2003 and continue learning innovative ways to train STEM teachers for the classroom.

“It’s exceptional that we’ve been able to create and sustain partnerships with the K-12 schools that we’ve worked with over the last 12 years,” Benson said. “They’ve given us feedback on how our teacher candidates are doing and we’ve learned more about the needs of students and teachers in high-need schools. It’s taken effort on both sides.”