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Stemming the Tide - Letís pay science and math teachers more.
City Journal ^ | 16 January 2009 | Marcus A. Winters

Posted on 01/20/2009 7:55:40 PM PST by neverdem

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, an international test of fourth- and eighth-grade student achievement, recently released its latest results. As in prior years, the mean U.S. scores were roughly on par with those in most developed nations in Europe, though well below those in Asia. But students in other developed nations far outpaced U.S. students in top-level science scores. For instance, only 10 percent of American eighth-graders performed at the highest level in science, placing the U.S. 11th among the tested nations and well behind countries such as England (17 percent), Japan (17 percent), and Singapore (an astounding 32 percent).

It’s no surprise, then, that the U.S. also lags the world in the proportion of students earning a college degree in technical fields. According to the National Science Foundation, only about 17 percent of U.S. college graduates earned a degree in subjects related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM for short). That’s well below the world average of 26 percent. We trail not only economic competitors such as China (52 percent), India (24 percent), Japan (64 percent), and Russia (33 percent), but even Mexico (25 percent) and the nations of the Middle East (24 percent). These figures become even more disturbing when we consider that American colleges grant many of their STEM-related degrees to foreign students, the majority of whom go back home.

American schools simply don’t produce the scientists and engineers whom we need to remain competitive in a technology-driven world. In their excellent recent book The Race Between Education and Technology, Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz convincingly show that the economic and political dominance of the U.S. throughout the twentieth century was based on its better-educated workforce, which could create and swiftly adapt to new technologies. But we’ve been losing that edge since our educational attainment began to stagnate in the mid-1970s—and as more nations surpass us in education, they also chip away at our economic dominance.

The troubles in STEM education mirror the broader problems of American K–12 education. The primary issue—and our best chance to make improvements—concerns teacher quality. A wide body of research has consistently identified teacher quality as the most important means within a school’s control to improve student learning. That likely goes double for STEM subjects, which require instructors not only to be knowledgeable but also to be able to convey difficult technical information in a graspable way. Attracting such people to STEM teaching requires a compensation system that recognizes their talents. Unfortunately, though, the way we pay public-school teachers today—based exclusively on seniority and number of advanced degrees held—doesn’t work.

Research consistently finds that these two attributes have little or nothing to do with teachers’ actual ability to improve student learning. Paying the same salaries to teachers of widely varying effectiveness is inefficient, to say the least. But another big problem with the current pay system, especially when it comes to STEM teaching, is that it compensates teachers in different subjects equally, too, and this ignores labor-market realities. With the same number of years in the classroom and the same number of advanced degrees, a high school gym teacher earns the same salary as a high school chemistry teacher.

A better system would pay STEM teachers more than their counterparts. After all, the skills required to teach STEM subjects are often more valuable in the broader labor market than those required to teach most other subjects. Of course, not every good math teacher would make a good engineer, and vice versa. But an individual with math and technology skills has more attractive job opportunities than, say, someone with the skills to teach elementary-level reading. The bottom line: public schools must dig deeper into the labor skill pool, hiring STEM teachers of lower quality than teachers in other subjects.

A system of differential teacher pay, on the other hand, could not only attract new teachers from the outside labor market, but also encourage the current crop of teacher talent to move into STEM subjects, which they’re currently shunning for understandable reasons—the coursework required to become a teacher in a non-technical subject is much less demanding than what’s necessary for STEM subjects. We need to give these people a financial motive to take the more difficult STEM path. Teachers’ unions support increasing the pay of STEM teachers—so long as the pay of all other teachers goes up as well. But spreading dollars around equally means giving small increases to all teachers instead of large pay increases to those we most need.

We can still ensure that this century will be as much an American Century as the last—but only if we address our students’ performance gap in math and science. And the best way to do that is to incentivize more teachers to master the hard stuff.

Marcus A. Winters is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: education; science; scienceeducation; stem; teacherpay; teachers
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Let's see Obama get that done - change the teachers union. Don't hold your breath.
1 posted on 01/20/2009 7:55:41 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Why so they can push the AGW hoax more? Paper or plastic anyone?

You don’t expect them to actually teach science now do you?


2 posted on 01/20/2009 7:58:33 PM PST by Tarpon (America's first principles, freedom, liberty, market economy and self-reliance will never fail.)
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To: neverdem

how about: let’s pay students if they actually learn math and science


3 posted on 01/20/2009 7:59:02 PM PST by ari-freedom (Hail to the Dork!)
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To: neverdem

Let’s see in the primary grades of most states technology and science is not even tested, or taught, except when parents voluntarily contribute for special lessons, instructors and equipment.

My impression is that the focus of academia now is NCLB, and the basics of reading and math.


4 posted on 01/20/2009 8:07:12 PM PST by Wiseghy ("You want to break this army? Then break your word to it.")
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To: neverdem

How about NO. Not as long as they work for government schools and teach things like global warming and 2+2 means whatever you feel like.


5 posted on 01/20/2009 8:09:15 PM PST by GeronL (DAY 1, YEAR 0 - The first day of the Oministration. The nightmare begins.)
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To: neverdem
It's no surprise, then, that the U.S. also lags the world in the proportion of students earning a college degree in technical fields.

so, if we are NOT turning out STEM degrees...where is the pool of qualified teachers going to come from ? Why pay more for bad STEM teachers ?

i'm thinking the shortest route to fill this gap, is to try and hire people from the private sector, since the writer wants to pay more for STEM teachers anyway, give it to the guys & gals who have been in the trenches for awhile.
6 posted on 01/20/2009 8:10:55 PM PST by stylin19a (I listen to the voices in my golf bag)
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To: stylin19a

“where is the pool of qualified teachers going to come from ?”

the same place that gave us Everyday Math and all of the other Piaget-inspired nonsense.


7 posted on 01/20/2009 8:16:48 PM PST by ari-freedom (Hail to the Dork!)
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To: GeronL

2+2 means whatever you feel like.

or: “who needs to learn 2+2 anyway? That’s what calculators and nerds are for!”


8 posted on 01/20/2009 8:19:39 PM PST by ari-freedom (Hail to the Dork!)
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To: Tarpon

Re: Science teachers,
Right on!
It was 18 below this morning and as I watched the kids shivering while waiting for the bus, I mused that my granddaughter just told me how they had to recite the 10 reasns that Global Warming is really happening.
If you ask me they’re WAY overpaid already.


9 posted on 01/20/2009 8:22:42 PM PST by bog trotter
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To: neverdem

Poring more money into a broken system isn’t going to fix it.


10 posted on 01/20/2009 8:28:18 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: neverdem
We can still ensure that this century will be as much an American Century as the last—but only if we address our students’ performance gap in math and science. And the best way to do that is to incentivize more teachers to master the hard stuff.

And combat pay for having to deal with fundamentalists who think religious belief trumps scientific evidence.

Seriously, without a grounding in math and science this country will go downhill quickly. We are getting by now on imports for the most part. When the brain drain starts going the other way we've pretty much had it. The economy will follow.

And the fundamentalists keep pushing for science to be taught their way. Perhaps they should investigate the causes for the decline of Arab science about six centuries back--a decline from which they have yet to recover.

11 posted on 01/20/2009 8:29:16 PM PST by Coyoteman (Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.)
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To: ari-freedom

Actually, “2+2” does mean whatever you feel like - if you define an abelion group with unity (a “Ring” - remember the movie?), you can make 2+2 =1.

And it works.


12 posted on 01/20/2009 8:30:11 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: metmom

Truer words were never spoken ;-)


13 posted on 01/20/2009 8:32:00 PM PST by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: ari-freedom

Don’t blame Piaget for what education schools put out.


14 posted on 01/20/2009 8:32:03 PM PST by RobbyS (ECCE homo)
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To: patton

Not if you are counting with your fingers. ;-)


15 posted on 01/20/2009 8:34:13 PM PST by RobbyS (ECCE homo)
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To: neverdem
What? Only teachers of math and science get more pay?

That's discriminatory! If one teacher gets more pay, then all teachers should get more pay.

That's the Obama/ American way!

16 posted on 01/20/2009 8:35:04 PM PST by Hillarys nightmare (So Proud to be living in "Jesus Land" ! Don't you wish everyone did?)
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To: DaveLoneRanger; 2Jedismom; aberaussie; Aggie Mama; agrace; AlmaKing; Anima Mundi; Antoninus; ...

ANOTHER REASON TO HOMESCHOOL

This ping list is for the “other” articles of interest to homeschoolers about education and public school. This can occasionally be a fairly high volume list. The main Homeschool Ping List handles the homeschool-specific articles. I hold both the Homeschool Ping List and the Another Reason to Homeschool Ping list. Please freepmail me to let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from either list, or both.
17 posted on 01/20/2009 8:35:30 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: RobbyS

Sure you can - cut two of them off.


18 posted on 01/20/2009 8:35:43 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: Coyoteman

The teaching of evolution in schools has had a monopoly for decades.

You have yet to demonstrate that the current decline in math and science scores are due to the teaching of creation or religious fundamentalist beliefs.

The more God has been removed from the public education system, the worse it’s gotten. If you have any evidence to the contrary, by all means, feel free to post it.


19 posted on 01/20/2009 8:39:26 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: neverdem
Sorry WRONG! Trying to fix public education by paying some teachers more is like trying to save the Titanic by paying some of the people in the engine room more.

In the District of Columbia, it costs in excess of $1 million to graduate a single student who is proficient in math or science from the public school system.

How much failure and how much wasted money must we experience before we will admit the public school model is BROKEN? The only way to attract and retain good teachers of whatever subject, is to structure schools so there is a business case for it. This means schools that are private and for profit. This means having just as free a market in children's education as we have for children's shoes.

20 posted on 01/20/2009 8:40:40 PM PST by theBuckwheat
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