College of Education receives $1 million grant to fund scholarship program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will help address the nationwide shortage of secondary mathematics teachers in high-needs schools with a $1.16 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will fund mathematics education scholarships for 15 students over a three-year period and allow them to complete their last two years of college tuition-free.

The Penn State Secondary Mathematics Noyce Scholarship Program will provide two years of funding for students working toward a career as a secondary mathematics teacher. Noyce Scholars will be enrolled as double-majors in mathematics and secondary mathematics education or in an integrated undergraduate/graduate (IUG) program that includes an undergraduate mathematics major and a master’s of education in secondary mathematics education. Upon graduation, scholars must commit to two years of teaching in a high-needs urban or rural school for each year of support, a total of four years.

“Every year since 2006, at least 40 states have declared shortages in secondary mathematics,” said M. Kathleen Heid, distinguished professor of mathematics education and principal investigator (PI) for the grant. “All over the nation, the number of teachers or individuals preparing to be teachers is plummeting, especially in mathematics education.”

The scholarship program will prepare students in mathematics while providing specialized training for teaching in high-needs schools in both urban and rural areas. Noyce Scholars will participate in technology-intensive seminars that include tutoring students from high-needs schools through the University’s Upward Bound program or a second-language learning program. Students also will be required to enroll in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar, an immersion course that allows students to work with teachers and children in The School District of Philadelphia and perform community service experiences within the city. Scholars also will receive experience in high-needs rural areas during their pre-student teaching and learn about the many issues that rural districts face.

“We have the cooperation of a number of rural schools in this area who are strongly supportive of the program,” Heid said. Current school districts that have committed to host Noyce Scholar student teachers include, Bald Eagle Area, Moshannon Valley, Penns Valley Area and West Branch. Pittsburgh Public Schools will serve as one of the primary host districts for the urban, high-needs student teaching experience.

The program will collaborate with the Department of Mathematics in the Eberly College of Science. James Sellers, professor of mathematics and associate head for undergraduate studies, will serve as a co-PI for the grant and help recruit students for the program. Rose Mary Zbiek, professor of mathematics education and head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, also will serve as a co-PI and assist in selecting scholarship recipients.

The program will work closely with the Penn State Alumni Association to connect Noyce Scholars with College of Education alumni.

“No matter where you go, there are alumni from our college,” said Gina Foletta, assistant professor of education and co-PI and project manager for the scholarship program. “We know that the first five years are critical in retaining teachers. Working with the Alumni Association has tremendous potential for helping us to keep teachers in teaching by providing them a support system.”

“That’s an important part of what we’re doing,” Heid said. “We want to provide the kind of support that new teachers will need so that they won’t find teaching in high-needs schools overwhelming. They will experience the joy of teaching in high-needs schools and have the support they need to stay.”

The Penn State Secondary Mathematics Noyce Scholarship Program will fund its first five scholars in the fall 2017, followed by five scholars in 2018 and five in 2019. When applying, students must submit transcripts and letters of recommendation, and write an essay addressing their commitment to teaching mathematics in a high-needs school.

For more information about the Penn State Secondary Mathematics Noyce Scholarship Program, contact M. Kathleen Heid at

Last Updated May 17, 2016