Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Discovering the Needs Assessment of Qualified STEM Teachers for the High-Need Schools in South Texas

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Discovering the Needs Assessment of Qualified STEM Teachers for the High-Need Schools in South Texas

Article excerpt

1. Background

1.1 South Texas and Texas A&M University-Kingsville

According to the 2010 census and the Texas Population Projections 2010 to 2050 (Potter and Hogue, 2013), South Texas is the home to over one-third of 9.4 million Texans of Hispanic origin. Moreover, it has been estimated that the Hispanic population will increase to 12 million by 2020 and likely surpass the white population. In percentage terms the South Texas region is the fastest growing in the state with between 145-198% growth rate projected from 2010 to 2050. From 2002 to 2007, the South Texas region's population increased at 2.1% annually, as compared to the state's 1.9% annual increase. The region, which is 81% Hispanic with a young population, is growing faster than the rest of the state.

Capacity-wise, South Texas is in transition from a historically under-served region to one where major efforts are being concerted to build an educational and economic infrastructure that provides full and equitable access for the predominately young and poor population. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (2008), among the 12 economic regions in Texas South Texas possesses a high potential for economic prosperity based on the premise that economic growth begins with an educated work force. Its higher education institutions are increasing enrollment and the number of degrees they award. However, school districts in this area are ranked below the state level as a whole based on accountability ratings.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK), located in South Texas, is one of several campuses in the Texas A&M University System. As of fall 2013, TAMUK had an enrollment of 7,730 students. It is primarily an undergraduate institution; 82% of students are undergraduates. Most of TAMUK students come from South Texas, but there is wide diversity in the population with students from more than 35 states and 43 countries. The student body is split almost equally between men (53%) and women (47%). Ethnically, the campus reflects the demographics of the area, with 62% Hispanic, 27% white, and 5% African American. About 6% of the student population is international.

1.2 Shortage of Certified STEM Teachers in South Texas

The report for Congress (Kuenzi, 2008) stated that concerns are rising in the United States that a vast majority of secondary school students fail to achieve math and science proficiency due to teachers who lack adequate knowledge of these subjects. Ingersoll and Perda (2009) asserted that the concern over shortages of mathematics and science teachers has reached new heights. Various high-profile reports from national organizations have directly tied the quality of academic performances of students to mathematics and science teacher shortages and, in turn, to the future well-being of the U.S. economy and the security of the nation. Therefore, inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers has emerged as a major educational problem and has been the focus of numerous educational reforms and policy initiatives.

The shortage of high school mathematics and science teachers and the national problem of retaining qualified teachers add up to a critical situation. Given the demographic trends within the state, unless and until teacher supply and related retention issues are satisfactorily addressed, Texas will continue to experience long-term shortages of highly or even adequately qualified mathematics and science teachers within its high schools (Sid W. Richardson Foundation Forum, 2012).

According to the U.S. Department of Education document "Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990-91 through 2011-12;"there has been a demand for certified mathematics, science, and technology application teachers in Texas since 1993. In addition, the school districts in South Texas meet the criteria for high-need local educational agencies whose schools have a high proportion of economically disadvantaged students from families with incomes below the poverty line. …

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