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Summer/Fall 2002 Vol. 2 No. 2

Table of Contents

Teacher in front of high school class ęPhotoDisc

From Grad School
to Grade School

Attracting Ph.D.s to
K-12 Education

Many newly minted Ph.D.s in science and mathematics begin their job search outside the traditional academic realm, seeking opportunities that would allow them to use their training in novel and rewarding ways. An ideal destination may be closer than they think. Given their passion for their work, knack for learning through discovery, and ease with information technology, talented postdoctoral scholars are needed and would be truly appreciated in the world of K-12 education.

They could help improve teaching and learning at a time when U.S. student achievement in science and math often trails that of peers in many other industrialized countries, says a new report from the National Research Council. Meanwhile, teaching and other positions in K-12 education could offer postdocs a challenging career path.

To experiment with such a match, the report calls for the creation of a national fellowship program to attract Ph.D.s, a pilot project to test the program in interested schools and learning centers, and a comprehensive plan to evaluate its impact.

A critical step in rolling out the proposed program would be the selection of the Ph.D.s themselves. Ideal candidates would have doctorates in physical, biological, or mathematical sciences, or in engineering. Plus, they would have a strong commitment to K-12 education and an affinity for teaching, said the committee that wrote the report.

Young teacher helping student ęCorbis Once selected, however, postdocs would not be expected to simply "wing it" in the classroom. Through course work as well as extensive hands-on training in K-12 settings, the program would prepare them to obtain a teacher's license. And they would be encouraged to use their connections in the scientific and engineering communities to help strengthen links among schools, colleges, universities, and science-based institutions. Ultimately, these scholars could become not only seasoned, highly skilled teachers, but also leaders in efforts to boost the quality of teaching and learning in the nation's schools, the report says.

The program's cost would depend on the number of fellows selected each year and the overall duration of the pilot project. But each individual fellowship should last two years, and postdocs could expect a stipend of about $35,000 per year, the report says. A national program, possibly supported with funds from both the federal government and private sources, would compensate scholars in their first year. Schools where they would work during their fellowship would be expected to pay stipends and benefits in the second year.    --Vanee Vines

Attracting Ph.D.s to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology. Committee on Attracting Science and Mathematics Ph.D.s to K-12 Education: From Analysis to Implementation, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education and Division on Policy and Global Affairs (2002, 108 pp.; ISBN 0-309-08427-X; available from the National Academies Press, tel. 1-800-624-6242; $26.00 plus $4.50 shipping for single copies).

The committee was chaired by M. Patricia Morse, acting professor of zoology, University of Washington, Seattle. The study was sponsored by the National Research Council with additional support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and Carnegie Corp. of New York.

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Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences