Program to address urgent need for STEM educators in Detroit, Dearborn

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Wayne State University has launched a teaching residency project for the Detroit and Dearborn public school districts that aims to address the state's shortage of STEM teachers and support workforce development.

The $2.5 million program, Metro Detroit Teaching Residency for Urban Excellence (TRUE) Project, will seek recent college graduates and mid-career professionals with STEM expertise in the metro Detroit region, especially those in the automotive and technology industries who may be impacted by plant closures.

Cooke STEM Academy teacher Leslie Parks-Fletcher speaks to students in February 2018 while they work on laptops.

Program officials said the project will prepare 36 professionals as K-12 STEM teachers over an 18-month period, during which they will complete a master’s degree and receive their teaching certification, followed by a two-year induction period of mentoring and professional development. 

Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and professor at Wayne State University, said he applauds the project’s innovative approach toward building pillars of sustainability in the region. 

“Having highly qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators in the classroom is vital to the development of our nation’s and region’s workforce," Whitfield said.

"Through our investment in the Metro Detroit TRUE Project, coupled with other efforts at the university, it is our aim to provide students in Detroit Public Schools Community District and Dearborn Public Schools with the STEM educators and experiences that spark learners’ curiosity to explore STEM related concepts that they can apply in the classroom, community and the world of work so they can thrive in the new knowledge economy.” 

Residents will work closely with school-based mentor teachers and university coaches, officials said. Each resident will receive a $40,000 living stipend during the first 12 months of the program.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit schools, said that, like most large, urban school districts, Detroit has a need for more teachers in STEM subjects.

"The TRUE project has the potential to help us fill openings in science and math classrooms with a diverse pool of teachers who are invested in improving outcomes for the students of Detroit,” Vitti said.

Roland Sintos Coloma, assistant dean and professor in the division of teacher education at Wayne State and principal investigator for the TRUE project, said the project’s curriculum will integrate two research-based innovations — culturally responsive STEM education and trauma-informed, socio-emotional learning — that are crucial in students’ academic and personal development in urban schools and communities.

The project will also allow development of a new curriculum that will ascertain teaching competency of the state’s new K-12 computer science standards, Coloma said.

Dearborn Schools superintendent Glenn Maleyko said in a letter that the district struggles to fill STEM-focused positions such as science, math and computer sciences.

"With the need of high quality STEM teachers across the state of Michigan, we believe that this is a one of a kind opportunity to assist in the development of teachers who have industry experience to be our future leaders," Maleyko said.

The project is supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information on the project and a list of information meetings, go online.