UABTeach, the Alabama Department of Education, and the National Math and Science Initiative have partnered to bridge that gap by launching the Alabama Rural Learning Accelerator Powered by NMSI, an initiative that aims to virtually bring qualified and trained math and science teachers to underserved and rural communities in the state of Alabama.Recruitment and retention of highly trained math and science teachers has long been a significant struggle for rural and underserved communities, as qualified educators often prefer to live in populous cities.
The Learning Accelerator will work to bypass location constraints impacting students’ access to qualified educators living in metropolitan areas by pairing those educators with on-site teachers inside of mathematics classrooms. The first cohort of the Learning Accelerator will focus on needs in Bullock County beginning in October 2021.
“We wanted UABTeach to be a part of the Learning Accelerator because of its aspirations to solve a problem that has eluded most for some time now: how to attract highly qualified educators to harder-to-staff areas,” said Paulette Evans, Ph.D., director of UABTeach. “These areas are rich in brilliance, culture and promise, yet have suffered because of systemic inequities compounded by the need for younger generations to live in metropolitan areas. This project will give us the opportunity to solve these problems in a new and innovative way.”
UABTeach, a program housed in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, allows undergraduate students majoring in STEM fields to receive both their subject matter degree and full teaching certification in four years at no extra time or cost. A site of the UTeach Institute and first program of its kind in the state of Alabama, UABTeach will serve as the pedagogical core of the Learning Accelerator by providing UABTeach faculty and interns as virtual educators and tutors to students in Bullock County.
“We wanted UABTeach to be a part of the Learning Accelerator because of its aspirations to solve a problem that has eluded most for some time now: how to attract highly qualified educators to harder-to-staff areas.”
– Paulette Evans, Ph.D., director of UABTeach.
UABTeach faculty will be intimately involved in planning and teaching lessons with their on-site counterpart, while UABTeach student interns will provide direct tutor support to students during power hour/study halls. The collaboration between UABTeach and on-site teachers in Bullock County not only will offer students access to extraordinary educators based in Birmingham, but in turn will give Bullock County teachers the chance to support their students in a different way.
“The mathematics pedagogical focus and vision of UABTeach is tightly connected with the focus and vision of NMSI, and we hope to make positive movements toward how students view themselves as learners of mathematics. No matter where they currently are, we hope to make students more comfortable with the process of acquiring mathematics knowledge,” Evans said.
Goals of the Learning Accelerator include focusing on regaining any learning loss incurred during the pandemic, building mentorship relationships between interns and students, and moving the needle with standardized test scores.
While starting in a rural district, Learning Accelerator partners intend to scale the project to regions across Alabama and beyond by replicating the program in hard-to-staff suburban and urban districts as well.