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.
Then there is the simple fact that most high school kids in biology haven’t the slightest interest in the scientific evidence. They just want to know what the teacher intends to put on the test so they can pass.
That garbage should not be in any school curriculum. But take that and all the PC, multicultural drivel that's made its way into curriculums and we have much of the answer to why American kids lag most advanced nations in the basic subjects.
I wonder what % of the typical school day is spent on PCness and multi-culti indoctrination.
So does a flat rate income tax.
The NEA is the left wing of the Democratic Party.
our entire approach is screwed up. We need to teach calculus first, then physics (I’m also not quite happy with all of this algebra based physics) then chemistry and finally biology.
Schools also have to accommodate the arrival of new students from other schools who did not follow their particular curriculum. So, there is a lot of wasted time on “catching up.”
First, we need to open up teaching math and science to people with degrees in the actual subject, rather than in education. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s do the same for English, foreign languages, history, drama, . . .
Then, and only then, will paying teachers more actually be useful.
I’m sorry, but I see ed majors in my university mathematics classes—about 15% dedicated idealistic folk, and 85% ditzes who picked the ed major because it was the easiest on campus—and until the state-granted monopoly given to ‘Colleges of Education’ to produce teachers is broken, neither more pay, nor breaking the teachers union, nor even a merit-based pay scale, will do much to improve K-12 education.
When my father was in high school in the 1940’s all of his HS teachers had masters degrees in the subjects they taught, and a few had Ph.D.’s.
Might be why science and engineering grad programs are desperate for American students.
“And combat pay for having to deal with fundamentalists who think religious belief trumps scientific evidence.”
No, more like combat pay for lazy parents and people that make unfounded snarky remarks.
Despite what a lot of people think, science teachers teach just that science.
Google "Balkanization" and see what that is, and what that would do to this country.
Its sounds nice to have everyone marching to a different drummer, but its a hell of a poor way to organize a parade...
This country does not need thousands of enclaves, each teaching their own dogma and opposing all others. But that is exactly what you are advocating.
And you know where it all started going downhill? When the draft was canceled. Prior to that young folks from all over the country were taken out of their home environments and given a basic education in US history and values, and shown a bit of the world for contrast.
And the Balkanization you are advocating will make a bad situation much worse. You should think it over and see if that's really what you want.
Good grief, get it right.
Base 2 uses only the digits 0 and 1, it’s also called binary and used in computers. What we write as 2 is represented as 10.
(Hence the computer nerd shirt inscription: “There are 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don’t.”)
If you use base 3, you have the digits 0, 1 and 2, then 2 + 2 = 11, not 22.
if I wanted a “parade,” I would’ve marched at Obama’s inauguration. Damn straight, I want more federalism and more freedom.
I would like to see science teachers teach even more science and less nonsense.
And the anti-science religious fundamentalism that is being pushed in some areas has no role in science education.
Look up the decline in Arab science--there were many centuries when learning was largely restricted to Arab lands; it certainly wasn't in Europe. Look up why that Arab science and learning declined.
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 its gotten. If you have any evidence to the contrary, by all means, feel free to post it.
Coyotemans’ doing two things...he’s projecting again and he’s attacking normal Christian people because he knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on and the godless liberal NEA IS wholly responsbile for this mess!
He wants to shift blame like a typical liberal coward so he won’t have to account for his own failed agenda that’s truly responsible.
Yeah, you’re right metmom, it’s been WAAAAAAAY too long that the godless NEA liberals have had a grip on public schools, and they sue anything that remotely challenges their godless cult, so noooo...that dog won’t hunt!
But hey, he can be proud, God’s been stomped out of public schools and after all he’s enlightened and all that because of it!
Ever stop to consider why we haven't won a war since the '60s?
We don't have the national will because of the Balkanization of that era--with liberals taking over a lot of our institutions (particularly education and the media).
Now immigration and the increasing ghetto problem within large cities is making it even worse.
And you want to further subdivide this country by religious denomination? Well, I'm sure the Muslims will be eager to help.
Study some history and see what the end result of this kind of Balkanization will most likely be. It certainly won't be the type of a country you think you are promoting, and you won't like the result one bit.
Jeez coyoteman....we have a model of your ideology in Aurope...after the secular humanists demanded to stomp Christianity out of schools and the public realm with their incessant political correctness, militant Islam back-filled the void/vacuum left behind.
Liberalism is a disease and you’re supporting it as evidenced by your silly drivel!
“how about: lets pay students if they actually learn math and science”
We do. They’re called engineers and doctors.
no rocket scientist gets every weekend, every holiday, "curriculum" days,spring break, and entire summers off, let alone sick time and personal time to boot....
lets get real here....
maybe a better approach to having better qualified and better prepared teachers is to actually require them to major in something besides "education"....
If you can’t read and reason better than you have exhibited in that post, and dozens like it, just don’t bother posting to me.
“We do. Theyre called engineers and doctors.”
correction: let’s pay OUR students if they actually learn math and science