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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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To: neverdem
Ever noticed how Fox News has the most intelligent reporters/anchors? Guess what - most of them do not have journalism degrees - they are attorneys, or political science majors, etc.

It is the same with math and science teachers. Education schools do not produce the best math and science teachers. (Most teachers (of this generation)majored in education because it was the easiest major, not because they were blessed with a math-mind or loved science as a kid.)

Pay them more, based on how well they pass certain tests, not simply because of their title.

21 posted on 01/20/2009 8:41:04 PM PST by too much time (Were ANY educrats proficient at math in school?)
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To: patton; ari-freedom

Don’t you know? 2+2=22

Sheesh.....


22 posted on 01/20/2009 8:41:24 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: theBuckwheat
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.

You mean that the DC schools are actually graduating kids proficient in math and science? Or is that just what it costs to graduate a kid, period?

23 posted on 01/20/2009 8:43:26 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: metmom

Trinary...


24 posted on 01/20/2009 8:43:44 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: patton

Sorry, I need all of them in order to use the baseten.


25 posted on 01/20/2009 8:47:04 PM PST by RobbyS (ECCE homo)
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To: metmom

no...2 + 2 = 1 because we must all be One under our Dear Leader Obama, may His great and most wonderful name be praised, Amen.


26 posted on 01/20/2009 8:47:18 PM PST by ari-freedom (Hail to the Dork!)
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To: metmom

Forgive me, since I assume you know this...

Define your number set as base 2 := {0,1,2}

Then 1+1=2, yet 2+2 =22, etc.


27 posted on 01/20/2009 8:47:52 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: neverdem

A wide body of research has consistently identified teacher quality as the most important means within a school’s control to improve student learning.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

There is a simple solution:

Require **all** government teachers to take and pass Calculus with a “C”, and they should sit side by side in the **same** courses as the math and science majors.

Do that and the overall IQ and competence of all government teachers would immediately improve.

As it is now, I doubt many government teachers could pass the GED ( for high school drop outs) math exam even if given a month or two to prepare. If government teachers are incompetent in math, then they subtly and overly communicate their antipathy to their students.


28 posted on 01/20/2009 8:48:18 PM PST by wintertime (Good ideas win! Why? Because people are NOT stupid)
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To: RobbyS

Base three makes more sense.


29 posted on 01/20/2009 8:48:46 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: neverdem

We pay our politicians more every year and we get worse, not better, representation.

In general, its not the funding - Schools have had Humongous increases in money thrown at them for years without noticable improvement.

They spend it on more teachers to reduce class size and work load, higher admin pay to the same people who are running failing schools, new schools with more computers, bigger staff lounges, more day care centers, more elaborate medical facilities, a bigger free breakfast and lunch program, more remedial classes for illegals, more spanish classes for english speaking students and more staff and teacher travel.

And yet the next year they always ask for more.

But they never change the curricula to eliminate politically correct nonsense and add more stringent math, science, history and grammer.

In my area school enrollment has dropped the last two years, which surprised almost everyone. It seems that many illegals have left and taken their kids with them.

So the school board is now asking for more money because lower enrollment equals lower federal subsidies. When enrollment increased every year they asked for more money because they had more students to feed and teach.

Their only answer to every problem and change is more money.


30 posted on 01/20/2009 8:51:15 PM PST by Iron Munro (Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself)
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To: patton
American schools simply don’t produce the scientists and engineers whom we need to remain competitive in a technology-driven world.

Sadly, I don't think there are American jobs for these scientists and engineers. Our high corporate tax burden and price-pressure produced by globalization is pushing American corporations to outsource these jobs. Look how many research scientists and engineers are getting the axe now...

31 posted on 01/20/2009 8:51:21 PM PST by RochesterFan
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To: wintertime

“pass Calculus with a “C”, and they should sit side by side in the **same** courses as the math and science majors.

LOL - good luck with that. You got a teacher that can make it as a Math major, I am going to offer them more money than they dreamed of, not to teach.


32 posted on 01/20/2009 8:51:46 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: too much time

Edudcation schools started out pretending to be professional schools, but they ended up being feeders for public schools. Consequently they take people of above average intelligence and teach them drivel for four years.


33 posted on 01/20/2009 8:53:26 PM PST by RobbyS (ECCE homo)
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To: RochesterFan

May be - might get the axe myself. Who knows. Until then, I keep on with the research scientist bit.


34 posted on 01/20/2009 8:55:22 PM PST by patton (SPQA)
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To: patton

I was being facetious.

That came from the time when my kids were little and we were talking about math and how a child reasons, and when you ask them what 2 and 2 equaled, that they were just as likely to answer 22 as 4, simply because they misunderstood the question.

Like when you’re explaining how to read two digit numbers. A 1 and a 2 is twelve. So a 2 and a 2 would be 22. So when you asked what 2+2 was, the answer could be 22.


35 posted on 01/20/2009 8:55:25 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Coyoteman

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

yup all those religious homeschoolers are ruining this country. The nerve of them to think they can actually try to teach their kids! We should force their kids to go to public school so that we can ridicule them if they dare to question Darwin (or any other politically correct theory, such as global warming).


36 posted on 01/20/2009 8:57:27 PM PST by ari-freedom (Hail to the Dork!)
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To: RochesterFan
Part of it is that engineering jobs have never been secure nor as well paying
as one would think. Compare the incomes of the average accountant and the average engineer in 1948 with their incomes today. Follow the money.
37 posted on 01/20/2009 8:58:28 PM PST by RobbyS (ECCE homo)
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To: theBuckwheat

“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.”

And you actually believe that? That’s BS told to you by some libtard school administrator milking the system.


38 posted on 01/20/2009 8:59:20 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: RochesterFan

So true. If you want to use that science or technical degree, be prepared to have to live overseas.


39 posted on 01/20/2009 9:01:21 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: patton

Me too. We just finished a round of downsizing where some good scientists and engineers were cut. Their last day was Dec. 31. Management is already talking about the next round.


40 posted on 01/20/2009 9:02:42 PM PST by RochesterFan
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