Joco Opinion

KU shutting down UKanTeach program. STEM teachers and students will suffer

The University of Kansas is shutting down the Center for STEM Learning and subsequently, the UKanTeach program it operates. The UKanTeach program is a way for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduates to obtain a teaching certification while also earning their STEM degree.

The UKanTeach program was started at KU in 2007, the second largest replica of the national UTeach program, which aims to address the national shortage of secondary STEM educators.

Since 2007, the program has graduated 233 students, of which 83% chose to enter into teaching, rather than continue their professional STEM pathway. Since 2007, the UKanTeach program has tripled the number of secondary STEM teachers the school of education has produced.

Currently, KU is proposing making the School of Education “continue” the mission of the UKanTeach program, but unfortunately, it is not equipped to offer STEM degrees to undergraduates, which has been what has largely led to UKanTeach’s success.

In short, cutting this critically needed program will send ripples across the STEM landscape. It will start with the 112 students currently enrolled in the program at the University of Kansas and continue into K-12 classrooms who will soon lose the pipeline of much needed, high-quality STEM educators. With time, industries across the KC metro area will suffer, not to mention the thousands of students left without talented teachers.

We’ve attached our letter to KU’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor, Carl Lejuez, and we hope you choose to take action with us to keep the Center for STEM Learning and UKanTeach program alive. You can support by reaching out directly by emailing provost@ku.edu, tweeting at @KUProvostCarl, or calling the office of the provost at 785-864-4904.

Executive Vice Chancellor Lejuez:

It has come to our attention that you intend to suspend the UKanTeach Secondary STEM Teacher program at the conclusion of the academic year. We do not discount the difficult process of determining programs that should continue to receive funding, but by further placing a burden on the PreK-12 system, your institution will also suffer.

According to the Kansas State Department of Education Teacher Vacancy and Supply presentation, there were 42 unfilled science vacancies and 35 unfilled math vacancies in Kansas in fall 2018, 612 vacancies across all subjects and grade levels. The top two reasons for the vacancies were “no applicant” or “the applicants were not fully qualified based on endorsement area.”

John Hattie — author of “Teachers Make a Difference, What is the Research Evidence?” — has completed extensive research in the variance of student achievement. Hattie’s extensive meta-analysis concludes that what a teacher knows, cares and does account for 30% of the variance in achievement. Hattie writes, “We need to ensure that this greatest influence is optimized to have powerful and sensationally positive effects on the learner. Teachers can and usually do have positive effects, but they must have exceptional effects.”2 UKanTeach is a way that secondary STEM teachers are trained to have exceptional effects.

UKanTeach is more than a teacher preparation program: it is preparing teachers to be leaders in the K-12 community. As the number of vacancies continues to rise throughout the state and more unqualified individuals lead our classrooms, we cannot help but wonder: How will the individuals you seek to recruit to attend the University of Kansas be affected? Will future Jayhawks be able to meet admissions requirements? Will future Jayhawks be prepared to meet the cognitive demands of postsecondary education? Will these potential Jayhawks be prepared to enter a field requiring a STEM background? And most importantly, how many opportunities for developing productive, analytical and service-minded citizens will be missed?

We strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision to suspend the UKanTeach Secondary STEM Teacher program at the conclusion of the academic year.

Sincerely,

Kelly Kluthe, Olathe West High School, Olathe

Megan Fowler, Maize USD 266, Maize, Kansas

Camden Hanzlick-Burton, Summit Public Schools, Seattle

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