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November 2020

Three ECP students around table

Three ECP students around table

$3 Million NSF Grant Helps Santa Clara University Prepare and Support Math Teachers for High-Need School Districts

A $3 million grant will provide full scholarships and more for 20 aspiring math teachers in high-need areas.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Nov. 2, 2020—Across the country, 2 million students leave high school unprepared for college-level math, even as the pipeline of highly prepared math teachers is shrinking. To help support the development of high-quality mathematics teaching in high-need schools, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $3 million grant to Santa Clara University to  pay for 20 future math teachers to earn both a master’s degree and teaching credential, while learning cutting-edge approaches to teaching math.

Nearly half of middle or high school students are taught by teachers without math teaching credentials needed to prepare students for college or a vital STEM job. The grant to Santa Clara’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology (ECP) is from the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which seeks to remedy that problem by encouraging talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers.

The $3 million grant will feature a teaching and learning collaboration between Santa Clara University,  San Jose’s East Side Union High School District, the Alum Rock Union School District as well as the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. To apply for a Noyce Fellowship, please go to the grant website.

Santa Clara University’s mathematics teaching credential program focuses on three key themes:

  • Teaching for’ “mathematical sense-making,”— as opposed to the rote learning of formulas, to ensure a deep and meaningful understanding of concepts

  • Supporting a “growth mindset,” undoing notions that only “some kids” can do math,  emphasizing instead that all can learn and excel

  • Preparing teachers to place equity, access, and social justice at the center of their teaching

“We know there are many highly qualified technology employees or recent college graduates with a strong, college-level mathematics background and a passion for giving back to their community who would love to become teachers to serve our community,” said ECP Dean Sabrina Zirkel. “This Noyce program is fantastic for them, because it takes the financial challenge of paying to become a teacher out of the equation, supports teachers during the first few years of teaching, which are often the most challenging, and puts highly qualified, well-prepared teachers in the highest need schools.”

The NSF funds will pay the full tuition plus a $20,000 living stipend for two cohorts of 10 Noyce Fellows to earn their California Single Subject Mathematics Teaching Credential and a master’s degree in teaching in one year (a value of more than $55,000). NSF will also provide $10,000 yearly stipends to program Fellows during their first four years of teaching. Spanish-English bilingual Fellows who want extra certification for bilingual teaching can receive tuition for that as well. The Noyce Fellows and their mentor teachers also will receive coaching and support to learn how to coach other teachers, thus extending the  impact of the grant to potentially dozens of additional teachers and thousands of students.

“Creating systemic change requires strong preparation of mathematics teachers and sustained professional development throughout their early years of teaching,” said Kathy Sun, the lead SCU professor on the grant. “This program will not only produce highly qualified teachers, it will also build a pipeline for leadership at these schools and districts that will affect ever higher standards of excellence in mathematics teaching and learning.”

The grant also covers research to ensure that the methods of math teaching and teacher support can be replicated and scaled.

"I am very pleased to enter into this collaboration with Santa Clara University's School of Education and Counseling Psychology,” said Teresa Marquez, associate superintendent of educational services, East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD). “Both ESUHSD and SCU know that high quality mathematics instruction is of critical importance for students' future success, and with this project we will collaborate to expand and improve the pipeline of teachers to serve in East San Jose schools."

About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education.  For more information see

Media Contact

Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121



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