Skip to comments.Stemming the Tide - Letís pay science and math teachers more.
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).
Its 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). Thats 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 dont 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 weve been losing that edge since our educational attainment began to stagnate in the mid-1970sand 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 K12 education. The primary issueand our best chance to make improvementsconcerns teacher quality. A wide body of research has consistently identified teacher quality as the most important means within a schools 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 todaybased exclusively on seniority and number of advanced degrees helddoesnt 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 theyre currently shunning for understandable reasonsthe coursework required to become a teacher in a non-technical subject is much less demanding than whats 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 teachersso 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 lastbut 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.
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?
how about: let’s pay students if they actually learn math and science
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.
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.
“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.
2+2 means whatever you feel like.
or: “who needs to learn 2+2 anyway? That’s what calculators and nerds are for!”
Re: Science teachers,
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.
Poring more money into a broken system isn’t going to fix it.
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.
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.
Truer words were never spoken ;-)
Don’t blame Piaget for what education schools put out.
Not if you are counting with your fingers. ;-)
That's discriminatory! If one teacher gets more pay, then all teachers should get more pay.
That's the Obama/ American way!
Sure you can - cut two of them off.
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.
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.