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Discussion: Science Instructional Materials for Middle School: Informing Future Initiatives

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posted by: Mary Long on August 30, 1999 at 2:26PM
subject: Preparation of middle school teachers
Preparation of Middle School Teachers

First, an introduction I am Mary Long, and work for Dr. Mary Ann
Rankin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at The University of
Texas at Austin. Janis Lariviere and I are Co-Coordinators of UTeach,
an innovative and streamlined program for preparing secondary science,
math, and computer science teachers. UTeach is a collaborative program
of the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Education that involves a close
partnership with the Austin Independent School District.

We are very interested in reform of middle school curriculum, and
introduce UTeach students to curriculum materials and instructional
strategies that reflect both the National and State Standards.
Although excellent curriculum is vitally important, we believe that a
highly competent teacher is the necessary ingredient for any curriculum
to be successful. We are focusing on producing such teachers.

We actively recruit all freshmen who plan to enter the College of
Natural Sciences by sending out several thousand letters telling them
about UTeach. We invite them to take STEP 1, a one-hour course in
which they explore teaching by actually teaching five inquiry-based
science lessons in nearby elementary schools, under the guidance of
mentor teachers. During their second semester, UTeach students take
STEP 2, another one-hour course in which they plan and teach three math
or science lessons at a local middle school. This semester, for
example, we have 100 students in these two courses who are working with
mentor teachers in elementary and middle schools. We want students to
discover early on whether or not they like teaching.

As our students progress in the program, they take a group of new
courses in The College of Education, all of which are geared
specifically toward the teaching of math and science. Most of these
courses involve field experiences in middle and high schools. New
science and math courses have been instituted, and reform in the
curriculum and instruction of certain large service courses in the
College of Natural Sciences is underway. We want prospective teachers
to experience excellent instruction in their science and math classes.

The College of Natural Sciences pays the tuition for STEP 1 and STEP 2.
For the UTeach students who need to work, we also offer them paid
internships to work in non-profit community organizations (e.g.
tutoring or setting up science labs in elementary schools, developing
education software, working in the Austin Children's Museum or the
Nature Center).

We began with 28 freshmen two years ago, and currently have 130
undergraduates enrolled in UTeach, one third of whom are
under-represented minorities. Our goal is to reach a steady state of
500 within a few years. Although we have yet to produce our first
graduates, we think we are on the right track.

We would be interested in hearing from any of you who are involved in
the preparation of secondary teachers. If you would like more
information about UTeach, contact Janis Lariviere or me and we will be
glad to send you more information.

Mary Long
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