N.J., foundation launch math-science teacher prep program

Gov. Christie announces the state's participation in the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation-created program.
Gov. Christie announces the state's participation in the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation-created program. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: December 09, 2012

New Jersey is partnering with a foundation to recruit and train as many as 100 new math and science teachers to spend three years in high-need schools across the state, including ones in Camden and Pemberton Borough.

The initiative, announced Friday by Gov. Christie, will cost $9 million, all of it donated. Teaching recruits will have backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math - the so-called STEM subjects - and will be trained in a model created by the Princeton-based Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation emphasizing teacher preparation and retention.

"We hope this will be a Rhodes scholarship for teachers," Arthur Levine, president of the foundation, said during a news conference.

New Jersey is the first East Coast state to participate in the initiative, already in place in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. Like other states, New Jersey has struggled to recruit and retain teachers in STEM subjects, education officials say.

As a result, officials say, students are not well-prepared for careers in math and science-related fields, though job growth is happening faster in those areas than others.

"This demonstrates a commitment to growing our economy," Christie said during the news conference. He said the initiative will create a "new pipeline for recruiting highly qualified teacher candidates."

The first class of teaching fellows will be selected in 2014 for a one-year master's program at the College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, William Paterson University, Rowan University, or Rutgers-Camden.

That same year, they will also be placed in schools in designated "priority" districts - also including Vineland, Bridgeton, and Millville - to gain on-the-job experience.

The fellows will include fresh college graduates as well as mid-career professionals. They will get a $30,000 stipend during their year in the master's program and classroom placement. They must then commit to teaching for three years in high-need schools and will receive mentoring during that period.

"In truth, we hope they're going to make this their career," Levine said.

The donors include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The money will help pay for two classes of fellows, with between 40 and 50 fellows trained each year, according to the Wilson foundation.

The foundation hopes to raise $4.6 million more to pay for two more years of fellows.

The state's largest teachers' union backs the initiative, although a spokesman said it hopes the effort is long-term.

"It's a good opportunity to bring people into the classroom in some critical need areas, and it's been successful in other places," said Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association.

"Of course, you want to continue to make sure teaching remains an attractive profession for everybody," Baker said.

The union has worked to train more teachers in math and science through its nonprofit professional-development center, Baker said. In the last three years, the center has trained 113 physics teachers and 26 chemistry teachers, he said.


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3882 or mhanna@phillynews.com

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