SPSU is one of three universities in Georgia awarded the grant through a competitive process from the U.S. Department of Education. The other universities are the University of West Georgia and Columbus State University, the governor's office recently announced.
The funding will allow the universities to replicate the UTeach program, which was established in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin, as a new approach to introduce math and science majors to secondary education. It will offer degree programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; early teaching experience; and master teacher guidance for future teachers.
"One of the things that makes it so successful is that the students begin to get teaching experience really early," said Zvi Szafran, SPSU's vice president of academic affairs. "A lot of education programs are set up so that ... you don't actually do any student teaching until your senior year. But in this structure, they get their first teaching experiences in their very first term."
SPSU's plan, called SPSUTeach, was approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in June. The
program is a natural fit at SPSU, where more than 77 percent of students study in STEM fields, said Dr. George Stickel, who will direct SPSUTeach.
Four-year degrees will be offered in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, with an education track leading to certification. Program courses will begin next spring.
The UTeach program has already been replicated nationwide on 22 campuses, including the University of California at Berkeley, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Tennessee and University of Florida.
More than 80 percent of UTeach graduates are still teaching five years after graduating, nearly half in high-need schools, according to SPSU.
The Race to the Top fund is a $4.35 billion U.S. Department of Education program designed to spur educational innovation and systematic reform in America's schools. The fund was made available through competitive grants to states.
In August, Georgia was awarded $400 million to implement its Race to the Top plan.
"The most important thing we can do for students and Georgia's future is to ensure that we have a quality teacher with strong content knowledge and a passion for helping students learn in every classroom," Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement. "UTeach has seen great success elsewhere, and I look forward to seeing it implemented in our state."