MONTGOMERY, Ala., Sept. 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- State officials today announced the "Alabama Rural Learning Accelerator Powered by NMSI" to bring highly trained math and science teachers to more students across the state.
"Nothing is more important to the future of our state than making sure our children receive a first-class education, particularly in the subjects of math and science," said Gov. Kay Ivey. "I have worked with the Legislature in recent years to advance several exciting initiatives in this area, including efforts to recruit and retain more math and science teachers to address the shortage in these areas of instruction.
"As part of these efforts, I am excited about Alabama's unique partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative aimed at establishing a national and cutting-edge model to deliver the highest-quality math and science instruction to rural schools that face the most acute shortages of math and science teachers," the governor said. "This is an exciting pilot that again demonstrates Alabama's commitment to innovation across all facets of education and economic development."
Hiring and retaining fully certified math and science teachers is a consistent challenge for rural schools like South Highlands Middle School in Union Springs. The Learning Accelerator will provide a solution to fill those gaps and connect more students to potential careers based in science, technology, engineering and math.
"There's a shortage of math and science teachers across the country and the demand for fully certified math and science teachers keeps most of those educators in our most populous cities," said state Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville and chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. "The Rural Learning Accelerator Powered by NMSI will give students access to fully certified teachers while allowing those teachers to live in Birmingham."
NMSI CEO Dr. Bernard Harris attended elementary and middle school on the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico and said, "I don't think it can get any more rural than that."
"That experience helped shape my dedication to expanding access to high-quality math and science education for all students, particularly those who have been underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields," said Harris, a medical doctor and former NASA astronaut. In 1995, he became the first black American to walk in space.
"For more than a decade, our school partners have demonstrated that all students can excel in math and science when they have the right resources and support from highly trained teachers," Harris said. "I'm excited to bring that support to rural Alabama in a way that meets students' and teachers' needs."
Teachers and tutors in the accelerator will work from the University of Alabama-Birmingham as part of UABTeach, a university-based program that allows college students studying math and science to also earn teaching certification. They will teach and provide study support through virtual courses.
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said local teachers also will play critical roles.
"The personal relationships between local educators and their students, families and communities are invaluable," Mackey said. "This program will allow local schools to build on those connections and bring in additional resources at no direct cost to local taxpayers."
Local educators who aren't fully certified will serve as in-person partners to the accelerator teachers and tutors to ensure students have the support they need.
Bullock County Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Blair said he signed on to launch the program at South Highlands because of its focus on students.
"Everything we do starts with a question about how it benefits our students," Blair said. "This program puts the students first. It's designed to be engaging and supportive, so our students get the math and science education they need to compete for tomorrow's jobs."
In addition to NMSI and UABTeach, the Alabama STEM Council is helping to design the program. It is starting in Bullock County Schools and is planned for implementation in other communities.