Thursday, May 7, 2009

UGA College of Education to host math, science academy for high school students

For three weeks this summer, about 60 Athens area high school students will have a unique opportunity to learn more about mathematics and science, and possible careers in those fields, during a Summer Academy hosted by the University of Georgia College of Education.

The free, three-week program involves sessions from 8:30 a.m. to noon from July 6-24, and is open for college-bound high school juniors and seniors in Athens and Northeast Georgia.

“Students will encounter topics that they would not usually find in high school, such as electron microscopy, veterinary science and the mathematics of body mechanics,” said Corey Buxton, an associate professor in the department of elementary and social studies education. “They will have access to tools, technologies and instructors usually reserved for university students. They will gain valuable career information that should expand their understanding of the range of available careers involving mathematics and science.”

As part of the final week, students will create project presentations of their work to share with younger children from Athens-Clarke County Recreation and Leisure summer programs and the Athens Boys and Girls Club, allowing them to experience the engagement and challenge of teaching.

The program, funded by a state Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative grant is one of dozens of efforts by UGA to promote interest, enthusiasm and engagement in the fields of science and math.

Georgia faces a critical shortage of certified teachers in mathematics and science. In 2008, 14.3 percent of all Georgia math teachers were not fully certified, according to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Another 18.6 percent of physical science teachers and 16.2 percent of life sciences teachers lacked full certification, the commission said.

“Middle school and high school math and science are projected to be critical need teaching areas for the foreseeable future,” said Buxton.

For college-bound high school students, a career in teaching science and math in public schools will soon become even more enticing. The state recently approved a pay boost for math and science teachers beginning in the 2010 school year.

The measure allows new secondary school teachers with proper math or science certification to start at the salary of a fifth year teacher. That’s an increase of about $4,561, to $37,985 a year, under the state salary schedule. The teacher’s salary would then continue to rise a step every year for five years. After that, the increase would be tied to student performance.

The new Georgia legislation focuses on high schools but would also reward elementary school teachers who increase their competency in math and science by handing them a $1,000 annual bonus if they earn an endorsement from the Professional Standards Commission.

The Summer Academy will be held mainly in Aderhold Hall on the UGA campus. However, field trips and project presentations off campus will be included. Those interested in participating should contact Joe Long at drlong@uga.edu to register for this free program.

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