SOE News

UNC-BEST receives additional funding, expands to geology, mathematics

A $1.25 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education will expand UNC’s Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching program (UNC-BEST), a new fast-track teacher program, to include mathematics and geological sciences. Launched this fall, UNC-BEST is a collaboration between Carolina’s School of Education and College of Arts and Sciences.

North Carolina is experiencing a serious teacher shortage. The state’s public schools need 525 new science teachers each year, but the UNC system’s 15 teacher education programs, of which Carolina’s is one, collectively produced only around 200 science teachers in 2006-2007. Among the highest-need areas are science and mathematics teachers.

UNC-BEST was originally designed to offer biology and physics majors a way of earning North Carolina high school teaching licensure while simultaneously completing their undergraduate science degrees. Before UNC-BEST, an undergraduate science major at Carolina had to pursue additional study after graduation to obtain a teaching license.

The $1.25 million U.S. Department of Education Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow grant will expand the program to include mathematics and geological sciences majors, as well as expand the existing programs in biology and physics. The new grant will involve a partnership with four high-needs public school districts in North Carolina – in Hertford, Warren, Vance and Guilford counties.

The first class of 12 UNC-BEST biology and physics teachers will graduate in May 2009. The first cohort of UNC-BEST mathematics and geological sciences majors could enroll in the program as early as fall 2009.

More competitive scholarship opportunities will also now be available for UNC-BEST physics students, thanks to a new grant from the Robert Noyce Scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation through the American Physical Society. The national program aims to increase numbers of K-12 teachers with strong knowledge of science and math who teach in high-need school districts.

The first of these physics scholarships will be awarded in May 2009. The $750,000, five-year grant will be split among UNC, the University of Arkansas and Cornell, Seattle Pacific, Ball State and Western Michigan universities. Noyce Scholars will receive up to $15,000 of scholarship support per year and must commit to teaching in high-needs schools during their first few years after graduation.

The Noyce grant complements the Burroughs Wellcome Scholars program established during UNC-BEST’s creation by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund of Research Triangle Park. Five of those scholarships, open to all majors in UNC-BEST, will be awarded each year. Burroughs Wellcome Scholars receive an annual scholarship of $6,500 during their junior and senior years. They also receive a salary supplement during their first years of teaching in North Carolina public schools.

UNC-BEST was part of Carolina’s report to the UNC Tomorrow Commission of the 17-campus UNC system, which aims to identify and encourage ways in which its universities serve the needs of North Carolina.