Rice receives NSF grant to boost STEM education

A multi-institutional team led by Rice University has received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a collaborative project studying persistence and retention of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers across the nation.

K-12 education in the U.S. has suffered from teacher shortages, particularly in mathematics and science disciplines, according to the award abstract. The NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program encourages STEM majors and professionals to become mathematics and science teachers (including teaching engineering and computer science).

Joining Rice on the project are Middle Tennessee State University; the University of Rochester; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; the University of Arizona; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the University of California, San Diego; and Kennesaw State University.

“I am very excited to start working with colleagues across the nation on a project that will inform the field of STEM teacher education and its research and help school districts tackle the significant issue of teacher turnover and drop-out rates particularly in STEM subjects in the U.S,” said principal investigator Adem Ekmekci, director of research and evaluation for the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP).

The team will build on existing research and theories related to teacher development and retention. The project intends to investigate the relationship between personal variables like motivation, leadership skills or social networks and teacher retention and persistence.

Investigating factors related to teacher retention and persistence is “a crucial first step to increasing the positive effects of teacher retention on K-12 education,” according to the abstract. “By comparing Noyce Master Teaching Fellows with a group of non-Noyce teachers with similar background characteristics, the impact of the Noyce Master Teaching Fellows programs on long-term teacher retention and persistence should become more visible.”

The Rice team also includes Anne Papakonstantinou, project director for RUSMP, Betul Orcan-Ekmekci, teaching assistant professor of mathematics, and Jamie Catanese, assistant teaching professor of biosciences.

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