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NEA Unveils Plans to Prepare More STEM Teachers

The National Education Association today announced plans to raise $1.5 million for an initiative that aims to increase the number of certified science and math teachers and improve STEM instruction. The teachers' union is pledging up to $500,000, and committing to raise at least $1 million more from the private sector, to expand and replicate an initiative developed by the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, a nonprofit organization founded by the New Jersey Education Association.

"We're working together to get additional qualified, caring, and committed math and science teachers into classrooms," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, himself a former math teacher, in a press release. "Right now, there's a severe shortage, especially in low-income communities, and that needs to change. But we cannot do it alone."

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama has called for the recruitment of 100,000 new STEM teachers over a decade.

The NEA is looking to expand and replicate two programs developed by the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning: the Progressive Science Initiative and Progressive Math Initiative. The science program has helped prepare 115 new physics and chemistry teachers since 2009, according to the center. It was created by Bob Goodman, the center's executive director, when he was a teacher at Bergen County Technical High School in Teeterboro, N.J.

Both the math and science programs aren't just about preparing teachers. They aim to bring a different approach to STEM instruction. For instance, the PSI involves changing the sequence of high school instruction from biology-chemistry-physics to instead providing a "mathematically rigorous freshman physics," followed by chemistry and biology, according to materials from the center. Both the math and science programs use technology to integrate curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, and use free open-source digital course content instead of traditional textbooks.

The N.J. center has also provided training for teachers in New York, Colorado, and Rhode Island.

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