STEMming the Decline in Math and Science Skills

Posted on: May 21, 2013

USF's latest partnership with Helios Education Foundation aims to install 80 subject-specific teachers in Hillsborough County middle schools within four years.

TAMPA, Fla. (May 15, 2013) - Aiming to boost U.S. global competiveness through a focus on the mathematics and science performance of American schoolchildren,  Helios Education Foundation and University of South Florida are partnering to build a teacher preparation pipeline that will place 80 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers in  Hillsborough County public middle schools by 2017.

The Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program will begin this summer, funded by a $3.16 million investment from Helios to USF's College of Education (COEDU), making the gift the Foundation's largest single investment in USF to date. The investment is the latest to the college as part of the USF System's $600 million USF: Unstoppable Campaign.  

"In order to prepare today's students for the 21st century globalized economy, we must first ensure that our teachers are prepared by providing them with the necessary training and professional development they need," said Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.  "This innovative, new residency-based program at USF will not only help enhance teacher effectiveness in the STEM areas, but it will provide the training necessary to ensure they are prepared to teach more rigorous content standards."

During summer 2013, instructors in COEDU's Consulting Office for Research (CORE) will engage in planning activities to familiarize themselves with the new program's goals and tailor coursework so that it focuses on middle level education and the lesson needs of young adolescents and/or STEM teachers. The first of two planned cohorts of 40 prospective mathematics and science teachers each will begin classes during fall 2013 and complete two semester-long practicums by the end of the spring semester 2014.

The following year, as the second cohort of 40 teachers begins classes, participants in the first group will engage in yearlong residencies, co-teaching alongside appropriately credentialed teachers in high-needs schools.

By the time both cohorts finish the program, HCPS officials estimate 20,000 middle school students will have benefitted from classrooms with their additional support. In addition, it is expected that completion of the teacher education program will enhance the quality, effectiveness, and, most importantly, the retention of program graduates, resulting in long lasting impact for as many as 100,000 students over a 10-year period.

USF and Helios Education Foundation have a rich history of collaboration including the Foundation's investment in the Florida College Access Network (FCAN), an organization that empowers communities to work constructively alongside schools and build partnerships with universities, colleges, community organizations and businesses to improve college preparation, access and completion for all students.



"The University of South Florida is immensely grateful to our friends and partners at Helios Education Foundation for their continued confidence in our education programs, and for yet another opportunity to contribute to the quality of instruction in local schools," said USF President Judy Genshaft. "By helping to develop highly qualified and effective math and science teachers, USF is continuing to play a leading role in preparing young learners for greater educational attainment while strengthening the economic future of our state and region."

In 2011, Helios and USF launched the Accelerated STEM Academic Pipeline (ASAP) teacher development program. In addition to the more than $840,000 in funding provided by Helios for that project, the Foundation has invested millions of dollars toward improving STEM education overall across Arizona and Florida.

While there have been numerous calls to enhance STEM education in the U.S. - starting with the Carnegie Corporation's landmark 1989 report "Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century"and continuing through the Obama administration's 2009 announcement of its Educate to Innovate campaign - key findings by the National Assessment of Education Progress and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) still show U.S. students under-performing their peers from many less-developed nations. Results from PISA, in particular, indicate that the performance of U.S. 15-year-old students on tests of mathematical and scientific literacy consistently dropped in relation to student performance in other nations between 2000 and 2010.

Among the biggest factors responsible for the decline, say experts, is the reality that up to 93 percent of middle grades students in the U.S. are taught mathematics or physical science by teachers without a degree or certificate in the appropriate field - a real problem given other studies intimating that subject-specific content and pedagogical knowledge are essential if teachers are to teach effectively. 

The USF: Unstoppable Campaign is a comprehensive fundraising effort by the University of South Florida System to celebrate the energy, vision, and future of one of the country's most exciting and engaged universities. Our people and programs, our ideas, our research, and our solutions comprise an ambitious plan to enhance healthcare, science, technology, education, business, the arts, and global partnerships.

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida. The Foundation focuses its investments across the education continuum in three key impact areas: Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years and Postsecondary Success. As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its leadership, expertise and financial resources to better prepare students for college and career and to compete successfully in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $125 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information about the Foundation, visit

Stay Connected

Get updates about our community involvement and featured news

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our eNewsletter!

Receive email updates on our Community Involvement and Featured News