Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Licensure Regulations for School Personnel [8 VAC 20 ‑ 22]
Action Comprehensive Revision of the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 11/6/2015
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9/25/15  8:52 am
Commenter: Bob Kolvoord, College of Integrated Science and Engineering, JMU

Engineering endorsement

I am writing in support of the creation of an endorsement in engineering for high school teachers in Virginia.  I currently serve as the Dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering at James Madison University (JMU), and previously served as the interim director/unit head of our new Engineering program. I hold a PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University (1990) and have served as a faculty member in the innovative Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) program at JMU since 1995.  I was recognized with a State council of Higher Education Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching with Technology in 2012.

During my more than twenty year career at JMU, I have worked extensively with Virginia STEM teachers in developing new applications for technology use in the classroom.  I have also been a part of efforts in ISAT to develop and support an endorsement for CTE teachers. 

The development of an engineering endorsement is critical to help support the inclusion of engineering in the K-12 curriculum.  CTE teachers simply do not have the background to be able to support instruction in engineering design, the most critical element of engineering for K-12.  Engineering, and specifically engineering design, is not a significant part of CTE teacher training – I can say this with some authority having worked trying to develop a CTE endorsement track at JMU, as well as leading an engineering undergraduate program with design at its core.

The need for an engineering endorsement is critical to those of us developing innovative undergraduate programs in engineering.  Students coming to JMU from CTE programs simply don’t have an understanding of what engineering entails, and many struggle at the outset of our program.  In addition, we see the possibility of a career teaching engineering as a potential draw to bring more talented and motivated students to our program.

In Virginia, the current endorsement or license for high school engineering teachers is in technology education. Technology education, by its nature, focuses on  technologies that exist today – how to build them, how to use them, and how to repair them if they break.  Technology education is important in developing the production workers of the future.  However, engineering focuses on how to create technology of tomorrow to solve human or societal problems and needs in the face of constraints. 

Students graduating from our engineering program are not currently eligible for certification in Virginia (even with appropriate education coursework).  In order to teach the discipline in which they have a degree, they must complete substantial additional coursework – a clear disincentive to becoming a teacher.   At a time when we need more K-12 teachers in this area, this is clearly not good policy.

If Virginia wants to bring high-quality engineering curricula to its high schools, it needs engineering teachers with a significant amount of engineering coursework or experience – either as an engineering major, or, in addition to a science or technology education major, or as a practicing engineer. Virginia must become more welcoming to engineering majors and reduce barriers to bringing them into the teacher workforce if we are to build our capacity to teach engineering in K-12.  An engineering endorsement will be a dramatic step forward to improving and spreading engineering in Virginia’s high schools.