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Chuck Carney
School of Education, Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2007

“Tremendous gap” opening in math and science teaching capacity

As need for math and science skills increases, so does need for teachers

May 3, 2007

EDITORS: Comments from experts in the Indiana University School of Education are available as mp3 files at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Just when the state of Indiana is ramping up efforts to attract life sciences jobs, the number of teachers key to developing the necessary skills in Indiana students is shrinking.

Charles Barman, professor of science and environmental education in the Indiana University School of Education, cited federal numbers that indicate more than 30 percent of math teachers and 30 percent of science teachers in the state could retire in the next five years. While he said more employers cite science and technology skills as important for high school graduates, there aren't enough certified teachers to fill the gap when the older instructors retire.

"The three areas that are the most in need right now, and will continue to be the most in need, are special education, science and mathematics," Barman said. "In science, there are certain areas that are more desperate than others. Physics is tremendously desperate in terms of need."

Barman said U.S. Department of Education statistics indicate 31 percent of the 4,436 mathematics teachers in the state will be eligible to retire in five years. Of the 3,698 science teachers, 30 percent can retire in five years.

Baby boomers, he said, are reaching retirement age. Barman and others began their teaching careers in those fields during a big federal government push to hire science and math teachers in the 1960s. The National Science Foundation provided incentives to draw teachers to those fields.

"They had summer institutes they paid you to attend," Barman said. "They brought in a lot of people, but they were all about my age. That's why right now, as all of us are starting to turn close to retirement age, it's going to put a major strain on the system."

Federal incentive programs stopped in the 1970s when the demand for math and science teachers eased. Now the need is increasing again. Other fields, such as special education, also are losing teachers.

The IU School of Education is addressing the issue by encouraging students to enter science and math instruction and by training people in other professions to become teachers. Barman is the director of the Urban Center for the Advancement of Science/Mathematics Education (UCASE), a joint project between the School of Education and the School of Science at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. The primary mission of UCASE is to increase the ranks of math and science teachers at the secondary level.

Barman also directs the IUPUI "Transition to Teaching" program, established before state law mandated public colleges and universities begin such programs in 2001. Recent college graduates or returning professionals can earn certification to become a secondary school teacher in one year through coursework in the IU School of Education.

David Kinman, assistant dean and coordinator of the IU Bloomington Transition to Teaching secondary program, said the IUB program usually enrolls eight science majors and around four mathematics majors yearly. Many of those applicants are straight out of science industry jobs.

"We have one this year that just came out of Lilly, after ten years as a chemist," Kinman said. "We do get them right out of the industry with the early retirement, and we get them directly from bachelor's degree programs in colleges and universities."

Two grants worth nearly a million dollars from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Scholarship are addressing the math and science teacher shortage. The School of Education at IUPUI offers stipends to those who have graduated with a degree in science or mathematics. The IUB program offers scholarships to graduate and undergraduate mathematics students. Students who receive the money must commit to teaching mathematics two years for each year the scholarship is received.

"The grants (at IUB) are approximately $10,000 per year," said Diana Lambdin, professor of mathematics education and the Martha Lea and Bill Armstrong Chair in Teacher Education. "For every year that the student receives the grant, he or she must teach two years in a high-need school." Noyce Scholarship recipients at IUPUI get about $8,000 annually to cover books and tuition.

Barman said such incentives are as vital now as they were during the time he entered the field as a high school biology teacher in a Milwaukee suburb. He added that he hoped state education leaders wouldn't lower licensing standards to get more teachers into the classroom. A bill failed in the recently-concluded Indiana legislative session that would have allowed teachers without licenses.

Media Outlets: the following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Website at

Barman says several teaching areas are facing shortages right now.

"The three areas that are the most in need right now and will continue to be the most in need are special education, science and mathematics. In science, there are certain areas that are more desperate than others. Physics is tremendously desperate in terms of need. But my guess is, if we have these kinds of demographics for math and science teachers, I haven't looked at the other statistics, but my feeling is that there are other areas in teaching that are probably also going to have some major shortages."

Barman says he's among the generation of teachers who started teaching science in the 1960s who could retire soon.

"You look at me, and I'm probably one of the classic examples. I am from the baby boomer generation, ready to retire in two years. Most of my colleagues have either retired or are going to be retiring in a couple of years. Many of us started teaching about thirty years ago. We've stayed in that profession, and we're all ready to leave. And I don't think there was adequate preparation, knowing that this was going to come about."

Barman says keeping the licensure requirement in important.

"Sociological issues are probably 50 percent of what you do when you teach. And you need to know a lot about the culture of the school, about the culture of the students, and how to deal with multiple cultures. A person that walks in off the street with just a lot of content in their mind doesn't know how to deal with that. And statistics show that when they bring in people in some of these alternative programs, where they've had maybe two months of preparation or even less, most of them tend to stay less than a year in the classroom, whereas the program that we're doing right now, we've had almost 100 percent retention in the last six years."

Kinman says "Transition to Teaching" is a good introduction to those who may want to teach math and science.

"And this alternative route is a fast-track program, gets them in the field immediately so they can verify their interest, and they'll stay in the field throughout that year."

Lambdin says the Noyce Foundation grants given at IU Bloomington are a big boost to those wanting to teach math and to schools that want to hire math teachers.

"The grants are approximately $10,000 per year, and for every year that the student receives the grant, he or she must teach two years in a high-need school."

For more Iinformation, contact Chuck Carney, 812-856-8027 and