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.
So what approach to you take to Calculus, geometric ? IAC, I am reminded of the 1960s when a lot of bright people developed a very intense physics and a mathematics curriculum for the schools, and it got all “frakked up,” because the teachers by and large, couldn’t handle it and because parents couldn’t relate to it. So we get kids with a lot of jargon who can’t do simple arithmetic, because the schools can’t figure that arithmetic and algebra are different fields. We then have the further complication of the civil rights revolution and black kids who are even more ignorant than the white ones are brought into the mix. So the schools—being the political institutions they are—thow up their hands and begin the process of dumbing down that continues to this very day.
forget the teachers and parents. Go directly to the kids and pay them. Make it competitive. Do that and the kids will push themselves despite poor teachers and curriculum. If they have internet, they will find out the best way to learn on their own. Everyone else will; learning math will be part of the culture.
The balkanization is largely owning to the the effort of the schools to alienate kids from their parents. The mission of the schools is now to force kids into post-modernism, which posits a world without truth but paradoxically a “correct” way of looking at it. Many people see them as teaching “values” that are the opposite of what they—the parents— were taught at home and in school. For instance the homosexual agenda, which seems to have been adopted wholesale by our social elites, is now being incorporated in school agenda, and all opposition is treated as bigotry. Christian symbols are proscribed but Muslim symbols are embraced. Traditional American history is being abandoned in favor of a history that fits the agenda of liberal pressure groups. The very notion of an American nationality is under attack. Pretty soon Spanish will become the second language in the schools, and we are likely to see repeated in the United States what has occured in Canada.
This will work only with the minoroity of kids who are self-directed. There are plenty of bright kids, kids with high I.Q. who have no idea of what information serves them well and what does not. The autodidact historically is a person who cannot compete with a dimmer but better directed kid. The former is, more often than not, like the natural athlete who doesn’t know the “fundamentals” of the game. Now I am not talking about the Bill Gateses or the
Tom Edisons of this world, but the usual.
These statistics are from the Trends In International Math and Science study produced by the Dept of Ed. The full report is posted on their website as a PDF and may be viewed by clicking here.
Look up US student scores by demographic. Then cross reference that against the demographic that educationally successful places like Japan and Singapore don't have.
People with an IQ of 88 aren't going to succeed in logically based fields. No matter how much you pay their teachers.
Nobody wants to be the only kid in class that doesn’t win $$$. If they can’t find what they are looking for on the internet then they will study for 2 hours instead of 1. They will cajole their parents into taking them to Kumon instead of extra soccer practice.
“People with an IQ of 88 aren’t going to succeed in logically based fields.”
perhaps not. But they’d be better off than others with similar IQ’s that don’t bother to learn anything.
Look at the research he cites: 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.
Now were we creative and adaptive because we were well-educated, or were we well-educated because we were creative and adaptive?
But never mind that question. The author doesn't cite any stats showing a shortfall in science jobs. Fortunately, Business Week does.
The Science Education Myth: Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support
"Michael Teitelbaum, vice-president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which, among other things, works to improve science education, says this research highlights the troubling weaknesses in many conventional policy prescriptions. Proposals to increase the supply of scientists and engineers rapidly, without any objective evidence of comparably rapid growth in attractive career opportunities for such professionals, might actually be doing harm."
"the new report showed that from 1985 to 2000 about 435,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents a year graduated with bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce. These numbers don't include those retiring or leaving a profession but do indicate the size of the available talent pool. It seems that nearly two-thirds of bachelor's graduates and about a third of master's graduates take jobs in fields other than science and engineering."
A good citizenry needs training in basic grammar, logic, rhetoric, and history to see through the shennanigans of its leaders. A minimal arts education will also expose manipulative Hollywood techniques, while physical education will train students to be strong and helpful in their community and, for the boys, in the armed forces.
All these areas are
perhaps not. But theyd be better off than others with similar IQs that dont bother to learn anything.
They'd be better off to invest their time in another field that suits their capabilities. Putting someone with no knack for math through four years of higher math and science isn't going to give you an accountant or a programmer or a chemist, it's going to give you a tradesman four years junior to where he ought to be.
He just shows up regularly to let us know there are still Conservatives who worship themselves and their knowledge. Pray for him instead, I am sure he would love that. God has been rejected from the schools and He left, shaking the dust off his sandals and taking His blessing too.
The only person to ever pull my son out of his academic spiral into failure, was a Godly math teacher. He has been successful ever since.
Where did you get that figure from ?
our entire approach is screwed up. We need to teach calculus first, then physics (Im also not quite happy with all of this algebra based physics) then chemistry and finally biology.
Your approach ignores the cognitive development of the child's brain. Much of the high school biology curriculum is descriptive, so teaching the scientific method and biology first teaches foundational observation and analysis skills that most students in early high school can grasp. Meanwhile, they are completing the foundational algebra skills required for a more quantitative approach to chemistry - including the ideal gas laws etc. Again, the students are simultaneously building math skills. The problem comes with physics. Very few students take calculus in high school and those who do are rarely prepared before their senior year. This means you have two choices - either teach an introductory, algebra - based physics course to a wider audience or teach a calculus based physics course to a few high school seniors who are simultaneously taking calculus. I did the latter, but worked my tail off that year (it was good for me...) and it was a very small class.
By it's very nature, science is limited by the need to observe and to do so repeatedly. The dangers of extrapolation are well known. The problem with the scientific study of origins is that it can never produce more than a theory. One can never observe the process in the laboratory and one's understanding is always based upon extrapolations. In scientific terminology, it is "an ill posed problem." The scientist cannot, nor could they ever, observe all the data and repeat the experiment under controlled conditions.
Religion, by nature posits the existence of a god and is concerned with the relationship between that god and man. Christianity in particular (since that is where your attack appeared to be aimed) presupposes the existence of a God who transcends space and time and who has revealed Himself to mankind throughout history. Orthodox Christians believe that revelation was ultimately through the person of Jesus Christ and that our sovereign God was capable of preserving a sufficiently complete record of His revelation through the ages - in the form of what we today call the Bible. Orthodox Christians generally recognize that God prepared the writers of the Bible to faithfully and accurately record His intended communication. That communication was by nature designed to communicate with the original audience and because of the universal truth communicated is relevant and applicable to people of every time, including today. Again, most orthodox Christians agree that we need to let the author (God) speak for himself and guide our understanding of the record. This brings me to the creation accounts - Genesis 1, John 1, and Col 1:15-16. Looking at these together shows that the point is to present the pre-incarnate Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists today. The Bible also presents the created universe as evidence of God's power.
The problem comes in when scientists and Christians alike want to look at the Bible and read it like a submission to the Journal of Applied Physics or Nature or some other premier scientific journal. The text of the Bible makes it clear that God did not intend to author such a genre. God's intent was to present Himself to mankind as an orderly creator and sovereign over His creation, not to write a textbook of physics or molecular biology. In the end, those who accept Christ as Sovereign Lord and Creator and those who reject Him in favor of a totally naturalistic explanation do so by faith - either faith in One who gives us sufficient evidence if we care to look or faith solely in one's own reasoning. Either way, the decision is based on far more than "science."
I think everyone should be able to do calculus in high school...I took algebra in 8th, geometry in 9th, trig in 10th and calculus in 11th and I don’t think we had the most amazing high school in the world. We also had a lot less free time available than students in most schools.
I am sure this sequence could be pushed even further back if kids were actually encouraged to learn math and not ridicule those who do, unlike what you see on the “Big Bang Theory” TV show. There is certainly a lot of room for ‘optimization’ in the math curriculum. For example, the Singapore 8th grade curriculum even covers trig:
I do. All of them.
This country has ONE enclave, teaching IT'S own dogma and opposing all others. THIS is exactly what we have now.
(The Gummint skuul kid's T-shirt inscription: There are 3 kinds of people, those who can add, and those who can't)
We don't DARE!!
Folks trained in this manner can look at data and come to conclusions: something that the 'leaders' do NOT want happening!
Yeah, us ignerint nikkle draggers are producing physics majors with SAT scores of 1530, and computer science majors with ACT scores of 30, and one more on the burner who's not done with her testing but is already outperforming her brother and sister academically. And that from creationist parents who are a meteorologist and engineer.
Not to mention the number of homeschoolers I know with similar education backgrounds and the ones with PhD's who teach at the local SUNY colleges.