Northeastern Illinois University will serve as a partner on a five-year, $3.5 million Education Innovation and Research grant that the United States Department of Education has awarded to boost student interest, motivation and access to STEM opportunities in Waukegan Community Unit School District #60.
The grant will assist the school district in developing an improved STEM-Computer Science Engineering Design Program (STEM-CSED) in high-needs schools by funding teacher training, professional development and high-tech equipment.
The grant will pay for more than 150 teachers who specialize in the STEM fields, from kindergarten through high school, to take 24 credits of Computer Science classes in preparation for a Computer Science endorsement test that is administered by the state. In addition to teaching the Waukegan cohorts, Northeastern also will provide professional development training to help the teachers develop appropriate pedagogies.
“If we want to make computer science broader and more diverse, we need to teach it at a younger age,” said Associate Professor of Computer Science Rachel Adler, who is heading up Northeastern’s participation in the project with Brittany Pines, director of the Math, Science, and Technology for Quality Education program.
As many as 50 teachers will make up the first cohort, which will launch in Summer 2020. The program will take about two and a half years to complete, and is expected to train about 150 teachers, with an impact on more than 10,000 students.
“The challenge is the teachers aren’t currently trained to teach computer science,” Adler said. “If you don’t have teachers who know it, that’s a problem. Now we’re working on taking these teachers and training them so they can effectively teach using computer science.”
The Lake County Regional Office of Education also is a partner on this grant.