UA begins incentivizing math education

This article first appeared at eCampusNews.

The University of Alabama has created a new pathway to get the best and brightest minds into secondary mathematics teacher education.

The Alabama State Department of Education recently approved a new UA accelerated master’s program that will allow select undergraduate math and math education majors to complete master’s degree requirements and achieve teacher certification simultaneously.

Program participants would then begin their math education careers at a salary of nearly $6,000 greater than those who begin teaching with a bachelor’s degree.

Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski, coordinator of UA’s secondary math education program, said the 15 percent difference in pay scale and the streamlined pathway will be attractive to undergraduates in the secondary math education program, known as SEMA, and math majors.

“We have SEMA students pursue master’s degrees for the sake of starting at a higher teacher’s salary, and they used to have to take and pay for a full-time load of summer course work,” Zelkowski said.

“But now they can use the AMP (or accelerated master’s program) pathway to graduate courses during their senior year that will count toward both their BS and MA degrees. This makes the pathway doable in two graduate semesters and eliminates the need to have to do coursework in the summer that was a financial burden to students, particularly those from out of state.

“Working across colleges with the mathematics department, in particular with Dr. Jim Gleason and chair, Dr. David Cruz-Uribe, we can identify as many math majors who, when they approach and reach 90 credit hours, they can know that in four additional semesters they can have a potential of finishing two degrees with a teaching license as a secondary alternative to their intended career path with the undergraduate math degree.”

Upon completion of the program, graduates can begin teaching at master’s level pay in any state because the requirements include standards that meet or exceed certification requirements in all states, Zelkowski said.

SEMA’s AMP pathway is UA’s latest effort to incentivize K-12 education at the university level, either through scholarships to take classes or by positioning students for greater earning potential.

Zelkowski is part of a five-year $1.45 million National Science Foundation grant in 2013 that awarded more than 20 two-year, $32,000 scholarships to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, majors and professionals to become middle and high school mathematics and science teachers. He’s part of another NSF grant aimed at getting more secondary math teachers to also add the ability to teach and advocate for computer science.

Zelkowski said the program will hopefully strengthen the University’s in-state recruiting pipelines, but continue to attract top talent from outside of Alabama.

“The No. 1 thing that always comes up for high level math students is teacher pay,” Zelkowski said. “It’s a high-needs field, and this is a major selling point for prospective students at UA.

“I’ve mentioned this proposal to the last three or four sets of parents I’ve met with – the potential of presidential scholars getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in eight semesters – and they’ve said they haven’t heard of anything like that at other universities. That’s a selling point for UA.”

The SEMA UA accelerated master’s program is UA’s 27th.

Baseline requirements for all UA accelerated master’s programs state UA students must have a 3.3 GPA and 90 credit hours to earn an invitation or apply through their departments, though higher standards may exist in each department. Learn more here.