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Education Schools Innovate to Supply STEM Teachers

Graduate ed programs are evolving by increasing field experience and math and science course work.

Former wildlife educator Kaleigh LaRiche now teaches middle school science in Cleveland.
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You want "strong support in a total immersion program," preferably one that partners with K-12 schools and provides teacher-mentors, says Charles Coble, co-director of an Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities initiative to overhaul teacher training. That effort, the Science & Math Teacher Imperative, has sparked a move toward these sorts of best practices at 132 public and flagship universities and 13 university systems, which together produce more than 40 percent of the nation's math and science teachers.

Some of the new master's options aimed at scientists and mathematicians are modeled on the clinical training medical residents get. Kevin Perry was headed for a career in surgery when he decided he'd rather teach middle-school biology in New York City instead. He gets his teaching certification in middle- and high-school science this summer after a year in New York University's Clinically Rich Integrated Science Program (CRISP).

"On the second day of the program, we were put in the classroom," Perry says. After several weeks observing during a summer session last July, he was paired with a biology teacher in September to observe and then begin co-teaching at East Side Community School in Manhattan.

Each week, Perry and fellow teaching residents are led by NYU and K-12 school faculty in instructional "rounds" in which they discuss what works and what doesn't. He also takes courses in science, teaching methods, literacy and language acquisition and data and assessment.

Perry receives $30,000 in scholarships from NYU's Steinhart school and New York State, along with a $20,000 living stipend. Similar residencies are offered by the University of Pennsylvania, University of Delaware and Georgia State University, among many others.

[Discover ways to pay for graduate school.]

How can current teachers beef up their STEM bona fides and get set for the coming standards? Part-time and online options are springing up to meet their needs.

The University of Maryland, for example, has created a teacher-oriented master's of education in middle-school mathematics.

"This truly has made me a better teacher," says Germantown, Md., algebra teacher Adam Ritchie, who finished the Maryland evening and summer program in December. "I was able to apply [course work] right off the bat in the classroom."

Besides studies that encouraged exploratory and inquiry-based learning and gave him the know-how to better challenge all kids regardless of ability, Ritchie took algebra, geometry and statistics, and now feels much more ready for the Common Core in math, which gets rolled out in county middle schools next year.

The other welcome payoff: a 20 percent bump in salary.

This story is excerpted from the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools 2014 guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings, and data.