July 31, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), along with Berkshire Community College (BCC) and Pittsfield Public Schools, will comprise one of three regional partnership teams that will participate in a pilot phase to develop MassTeach, a new model that aims to increase and diversify the ranks of educators prepared to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in high-need school districts. The program is the result of a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE).

The five-year grant, awarded through NSF’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Track, is the first of its kind to be presented to a state higher education system. It will be used to simultaneously address two critical issues: the overall shortage of trained and licensed STEM instructors and the lack of under-represented minorities that teach in the Commonwealth’s K-12 classrooms.

MCLA President James F. Birge, Ph.D., hailed the new initiative, which he said will build upon the College’s work to promote STEM education and support students of color. This includes the College’s “Strengthening Institutions Program,” funded by nearly $2.2 million from the United States Department of Education. As a result of multiple initiatives, MCLA is closing the gap in four-year graduation rates between students of color and the general cohort.

“We are delighted to continue this important work as we participate in the development of MassTeach, which will complement our efforts to eliminate achievement gaps between students,” Birge said. “It is particularly important as MCLA works with Berkshire Community College and Pittsfield Public Schools to meet the need for educators to teach math and science to the next generation of innovators, who will fill the STEM Pipeline in Berkshire County, the Commonwealth, and beyond.”

MCLA Education Department Chair Nick Stroud, Ph.D., said the Education Department is thrilled to work on the MassTeach project with the College’s colleagues at BCC and across the Commonwealth.

“This project will not only enhance our ability to attract and retain high quality teacher candidates in the high demand fields of STEM education, it will also create and sustain a more diverse cadre of STEM teachers in Berkshire County. This project has the potential to be a model for other partnerships across the Commonwealth and the nation, and MCLA is excited to be one of the lead institutions.”

The new program, intended to be both sustainable and scalable, will utilize “A2B” (Associate to Bachelor’s) degree pathways that are part of the statewide MassTransfer system. MassTransfer allows students to begin their undergraduate education at one of the state’s community colleges and then transfer to any state university at a substantial cost savings and without a loss of credit.

MassTeach Scholars will receive $20,000 scholarships, as well as academic advising to keep them on track to transfer, graduate with a STEM degree and obtain a STEM teaching license. By drawing from the highly diverse community college population, MassTeach will cultivate a culturally rich pool of potential educators who are often the first in their family to attend college and likely to reside in economically disadvantaged urban districts where the need for qualified and diversified STEM instructors is most acute.

Ninety percent of Massachusetts teachers are white, compared with an overall student population that is 60 percent white. A wide body of research indicates that students often perform better academically when they are taught by teachers they can identify with. One of the unique aspects of MassTeach is that it will place new teachers in urban communities where they grew up and attended school, allowing grant evaluators to gauge whether educators’ local roots serve as a catalyst for their retention in the classroom.

In addition to the work MCLA does through its “Strengthening Institutions Program,” 32 of the College’s students who major in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental studies, computer science and mathematics benefit from a nearly $640,000 National Science Foundation Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S-STEM) grant that provides them with annual scholarships through the “STEM Pathways Program.”

This program directly addresses an area of national concern – the shortage of graduates in this country who are trained in STEM-related fields – as it allows academically strong STEM students who may not otherwise be able to afford college to prepare to help Massachusetts companies continue to advance knowledge that produces life-changing innovations.

MCLA also collaborates with North Adams Public Schools and Williams College to improve undergraduate science education with funding from a nearly $811,000 grant from NSF. The four-year project, “Teaching to Learn: Improving Undergraduate Science Education Through Engagement in K-7 Science,” for which Stroud serves as the principal investigator, provides opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in experiences developing and teaching science lessons in North Adams elementary school classrooms.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

For more information, go to