Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program awards $1.2M grant to College of Education

Apr 17, 2020 | Education and Human Sciences, General News, Uncategorized

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Louisiana Tech University a $1.2 million Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grant to foster computer science education in north Louisiana. 

Computing occupations are the No. 1 source of all new wages in the United States and make up over half of all projected new jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Louisiana currently has almost 2,500 open computing jobs. Yet in Louisiana, only 16 percent of all public high schools teach computer science, and 70 percent of the teachers of those courses are not certified to teach computer science. 

“Computer science is featured in one of Louisiana’s Jump Start 2.0 CTE pathways,” Louisiana Department of Education’s Nathan Corley said. “Anecdotally, districts regularly communicate to the LDOE that the only barrier to offering computer science courses is qualified, certified personnel.” 

An interdisciplinary project team from the College of Education and College of Engineering and Science, in partnership with six high-need school districts (Bienville, Caddo, Lincoln, Ouachita, Richland, and Winn Parishes) and the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), set out to address the need for computer science education in the state by developing the “CyberTeach-LA” project, a dedicated computer science education pathway within the university’s existing UTeachTech program.

“We have a long history of working with Louisiana Tech University in order to better serve our students and faculty,” said Jeff Holcomb, Caddo Parish STEM lead. “We currently have a cohort of teachers in the Cyber Education certificate program through the College of Education, and we’re looking forward to expanding our STEM partnership to collaboratively prepare computer science educators to prepare a generation of computer scientists right here in northwest Louisiana.”

UTeachTech is a teacher preparation program that allows STEM majors to earn a minor in secondary education and certification to teach high school along with their content degree.  Though all STEM majors are eligible, computer science and cyber engineering majors have been underrepresented in the program. To date, only 39 of the nearly 600 computer science/cyber engineering majors at Louisiana Tech have taken UTeachTech courses, and no UTeachTech graduates have been computer science/cyber engineering majors. This mirrors a statewide problem: between 2015 and 2019, only 26 teachers were issued a computer science ancillary teaching certification in Louisiana.

Over a five-year period, the grant funding will be used to recruit, prepare, and retain 20 STEM teachers highly trained in computer science principles to teach in rural, high-need north Louisiana schools by providing:

  • scholarships support for students in the program,
  • internship support to recruit prospective CyberTeach-LA students,
  • a new, online computer science education certificate program, and
  • dedicated induction and ongoing support for graduates of the program.

The program will be open to Louisiana Tech computer science and cyber engineering majors, computer science minors, and other STEM majors interested in computer science, with a focus on increasing participation of underrepresented groups.

“The goal of the CyberTeach-LA project is to serve as a catalyst for change in Louisiana computer science education,” said Dr. Laura Bostick, Associate Director of UTeachTech and Principal Investigator on the project. “On average, a teacher affects 3,000 children over the course of his or her career, so our 20 CyberTeach-LA graduates potentially could give 60,000 students in Louisiana access to computer science education. And that number gets a lot bigger when you consider the number of current teachers in Louisiana and across the country we can train through our online computer science education certificate program.”