University of Rochester

A $750K Boost for Math, Science Teacher Preparation

September 12, 2011

Warner Receives NSF Grant for Scholarships and Program Support

Danielle Spartano, a math teacher at the Young Adult Evening High School, has always had a strong passion to teach. Sean Coffey, a biology teacher at John Marshall High School, was a college senior majoring in biology when he decided to pursue his earlier childhood dream of teaching. Today, Spartano and Coffey, both past Noyce scholars and graduates of the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education, continue to transfer their enthusiasm and knowledge for math and science with students and help meet the need for strong math and science teachers in Rochester city schools.

With a new $749,994 grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, the Warner School will enhance current efforts to address the shortage of highly-qualified math and science teachers locally. The funding will encourage more talented science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduate majors and professionals to become certified K-12 math and science teachers, ultimately expanding the number of quality teachers serving the Rochester City School District and other high-need districts across state.

The University of Rochester Robert Noyce Scholars Program, which targets teacher preparation for high-need schools, was launched three years ago through a partnership of the Warner School, the Colleges of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, and the Rochester City School District. This grant is a Phase II Noyce grant, and it follows a successful Phase I grant for $760,983. The combined funding of $1.5 million provides full tuition scholarships to talented STEM undergraduates and professionals who wish to pursue a career in teaching.

"Receiving these two competitive grants is a great tribute to our teacher preparation programs and to the strong collaborative efforts among education faculty at Warner and STEM faculty at the College, as well as with the Rochester City School District and Rochester Museum and Science Center," said Raffaella Borasi, dean of the Warner School and principal investigator on both grants. "Together, both grants will continue to allow us to prepare graduate students to develop strong teaching skills and prepare them for meeting the challenges of working in underserved school districts most in need of committed, talented, and well-prepared math and science educators."

Over the next three years, a total of 27 new Noyce scholars will be able to enroll tuition-free into one of the Warner School's 15-month graduate teacher preparation programs in mathematics or science. Qualifying applicants include undergraduates or recent graduates majoring in STEM programs and STEM professionals who are considering a career change to the teaching profession. In return, the Noyce Scholars will commit to teach for at least two years in Rochester or another high-need district upon successful completion of their master's program.

All Noyce Scholars will participate in high quality, innovative teacher preparation programs leading to teaching certification in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science. Scholars enrolled in the mathematics teacher preparation program will participate in mathematics education courses and related field experiences that will empower them to teach mathematics with understanding and by capitalizing on high-quality mathematics instructional materials. Similarly, scholars in the science teacher preparation program will experience inquiry-based science from both learners' and teachers' perspectives by participating in authentic science investigations and teaching reform-based science in both out-of-school and school-based settings.

"The Noyce scholarship offered me a rich experience at Warner that blended current research and theory with practical applications in the classroom, and it taught me to critically examine my own practice regularly, in an effort to become a more reflective, reform-based teacher," said Coffey. "Because of this, my students now get to experience science rather than absorb it. Unlike other classrooms, my students actively engage in authentic science and benefit from receiving instruction that aligns with current research on how people learn."

In addition to the financial support, Noyce scholars will receive unparalleled academic support, such as mentoring from and student teaching placements with experienced Rochester city school teachers participating in the Warner School's Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program. A selected number of scholars will have the opportunity to pursue additional certifications, tuition-free, in urban education or teaching students with disabilities.

Scholarship recipients will continue to receive training during their initial years in the classroom. This will consist of mentoring and networking support, opportunities for further professional development, and opportunities to experience and explore innovative STEM teaching in informal settings during summer breaks through the Warner School's Horizons Summer Enrichment Program and the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

Quality math and science teachers are in demand in Rochester. Twenty-nine percent of students in grades 3 through 8 are proficient in math and 27 percent of high school students passed the Regents competency tests in mathematics and science last year. The new Phase II grant will give city students access to teachers who have a passion for teaching and who share a long-term goal of teaching and improving math and science education in Rochester.

Coffey believes that the continuation of the Noyce Scholars Program will help to strengthen the population of reform-based teachers in the area. "In order to help actuate the change that Noyce Scholars want to see in the current education system, there needs to be a community of them in the District," added Coffey. "I hope that the Phase II grant will continue to put teachers in a position where they can create a culture shift and make the educational system more congruent with the current research on how students learn."

There is growing evidence of the high quality impact of these Noyce Scholars. The program has already recruited and provided 30 talented Noyce Scholars, all of whom will graduate by October 2011, with a strong foundation to serve math and science students in high-need schools. More than half of these Noyce Scholars were career changers, while others were recent graduates in one of the STEM fields, and two were recipients of the prestigious Knowles Foundation's Teaching Fellowship awarded each year to nearly 30 promising soon-to-be new teachers nationwide. In 2010, Coffey received the Career In Teaching Award for First Year Teachers at the Rochester City School District. Phase I was not only successful at attracting stronger students, ranging in age from 22 to 50 years, to Warner's mathematics and science teacher preparation programs, but also in more than doubling the number of graduates each year who have a passion for and deep understanding of their subject matter, awareness of real-world applications of math and science, and a commitment to underserved schools.

The Warner School has a long tradition of being a leader in mathematics and science education reform and the preparation of inquiry-minded teachers. Over the last three years, 95 percent of Warner's Noyce Scholars have acquired teaching jobs, most right as they finished their program and the rest within a year of completion.

"Thanks to the first Noyce grant, we have already made a significant impact on students locally," said Borasi, "and our newly awarded Noyce Phase II grant will allow us to continue this momentum. The additional funding will allow us to add some new innovative features to our teacher preparation programs to deepen student commitment to their disciplines and to teaching. We also will create a support system that not only prepares students to enter the field of math and science teaching, but to stay in the profession long term."

Spartano credits the Noyce Scholars Program for offering her ongoing opportunities to connect with like-minded teachers who have been through the graduate program and to share current research and practices that have been helpful throughout her first year of teaching. "The continuing workshops have allowed me to reflect, share, and gain insight into others' ideas and experiences teaching in a similar environment," she said. "This reflection process not only allows me to obtain helpful resources, but to reflect on my own practices and revisit the big picture goals that are often lost or overlooked during a busy year of teaching."

In addition to recruiting and preparing quality math and science teachers for high-need schools, the new Phase II grant will allow Warner School faculty to gain a better understanding of what it takes to prepare future math and science teachers most effectively. Throughout the duration of the project, faculty will begin to measure the effectiveness of Phase I and Phase II Noyce Scholars as beginning math and science teachers, with the ultimate goal of informing and strengthening STEM teacher preparation programs nationwide.

The NSF Robert Noyce Scholars Program is aimed at stemming the loss of mathematics and science teachers in the nation's neediest schools. The scholarship is named for Dr. Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel Corp and the scientist awarded the 1961 patent for the integrated conductor.

For more information about the University of Rochester Robert Noyce Scholarship Program or the Warner School's teacher preparation programs, please visit or contact admissions at (585) 275-3950 or by e-mail at

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education offers master's and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.