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.
You nailed it.
Physics before chemistry is way more successful.
The public schools have it backwards, as usual.
I'm teaching physics and algebra to my grandkids: 5, 9 and 11 - but they don't know it.
It gets mixed in with all the fun stuff that Papaw does in the barn and around the farm!
Evolution has had the monopoly for decades in the public school system. Can't blame the failure of science education on teaching creation.
Nope. 23 + 23 = 113
Where? What kind?
Wake up. Evolution has had the monopoly in public education through litigation and the abuse of the judiciary for decades. How can you keep repeating the lie that teaching creation in public schools is going to destroy the science education the kids are receiving?
It's not like science in public schools is anything worth mentioning as it is and creation has nothing to do with it.
Then we can turn this ship around!
I know people with hard science degrees but they are required to pursue a teaching certificate in order to teach in a publik skuul.
This is never going to happen till the teachers union is gone. The teacher’s union is all about protecting BAD teachers. If they were good teachers would they still need a union?
How about NO, indeed. Here in CA, math teachers (even with PhDs in MATH) are required to take 10 courses (!) in ‘how to teach math.’ They are taught by the union teachers, of course, through the State’s NCLB ‘program.’
The one I started to take (rolling eyes) was taught by a gal with a BA in DRAMA!! ... who wanted us to ingest/ spew fuzzy math — ‘there are many ways to get the right answer.’ The PhD in math guy was absolutely convulsing; I got those brain-headaches when your brain knows something is beyond the pale. My scientist-husband said, “Those things she is teaching you are not correct. Get out!”
It is a wonder any child in California learns math, and the teachers are part of the problem. The textbooks are THE WORST! etc. etc. This should NOT be rewarded.
I’ve had far more advanced mathematics than the average high school math teacher, but she’s qualified to teach my kids and I’m not because she has a degree with the word “Education” in it.
Now, I am a bit concerned about physics since all I’ve done with that is what comes free with Saxon math but before our kids get to that stage, I’ll go learn it myself. Looking forward to it - I have always regretted not fitting physics into my college work.
Get Saxon Physics. We used that for my daughter and it’s about AP level work. It’s usual Saxon quality.
A lot, and that's why there's a problem, imo, not because of money.
When my kids were in public school, and spent a lot of time volunteering in the classroom, and I'd say that the vast majority of the day is spent doing other stuff: PE, eating, recess, getting organized, going to and from places. That's just the nature of a classroom full of kids.
Also they don't spend enough time doing the basics like math drills and the repetitive stuff other nations do. They tend to go at the pace of the slowest kid in the class. My second grader was still doing doubles addition at the end of second grade. This for a kid who already understood probability at the beginning of first grade ( because he watched Bill Nye the Science Guy every day ).
One day, near the end of second grade, I walked in and he was going over doubles addition with his seatmate . He looked at me with his eyes full of desperation and he said, "Mom, this is all the math we ever do ! " I can't stand it !".
That was the day we decided to homeschool. He graduates in May, and will start college classes this Spring.
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him march to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
That used to sum up the American Experience;as summarized by the quintessential American Philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. In his day, schools all over the nation were organized, run and funded by local communities. They had no standardized curriculum, other than the Blue-Backed Speller, and the Bible, and a far greater percentage of children were home schooled, or even not schooled at all. Incidentally, they all learned nothing but creationism.
A national military, to which all could be inducted, was unheard of. According to your premise, we should have had disruption and chaos, ; yet these were the schools that produced American greats like Jefferson, Lincoln, and the other founders. Andrew Carnegie, who basically industrialized America, was a Scottish immigrant with very little formal education. That was the system, full of the chaos of many different groups, that produced American greatness and prosperity. That parade, though it would be unorganized in your book, was the parade that carried America to greatness, and millions to prosperity.
Paradoxically, it's greatness, and it's harmony; sprang up out of disharmony and seeming chaos. Forcing ever more students into the educational collective will not produce either greatness, nor an organized parade; but the very Balkcanization you seek to avoid.
The Soviet Union is the perfect example of what happens when standardization is forced from the top down. You get seeming harmony, while force is applied, often brutally, and the eventual destruction of the entire system.
Stop beating the "money will fix education" dead horse already!
It just. Doesn't. Work.
I had the same experience in the "Math Education" college classes. When we went on a practicum to teach math to small groups of Middle Schoolers, we were supposed to be doing an exercise in which the kids spent an hour "rediscovering" a principle of geometry. Our professor actually announced to the kids that we were not allowed to tell them if they were right or wrong, and that we would get in trouble if we did.
In this type of curriculum, the kids spend weeks "discovering" the Pythagorean Theorem with string, etc. ,but never actually do the repetitive problems necessary to master it. Then of course they don't have time to learn everything they should, because they have to rediscover everything. It's absolutely ridiculous.
So what we have is an educational parade dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. No opportunity to excel. No opportunity to think out of the box. Just force fed material that they are expected to vomit back on tests without the need to understand how to apply the material. Sure is a great way to stifle initiative.
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.
In respect to the first part, that's exactly what homeschoolers are currently doing and their success in general far outshines anything the public school system does in general. If you feel that that is what's happening, please provide the data to back up your assertion that this would ruin education.
And you know where it all started going downhill?
No, it all started going downhill with the implementation of the graded schools and the elimination of the one room school house and local parental control of the schools in the early 1900's, which interestingly enough, coincided with the Scopes Trial and the beginning of eliminating God from education.
Please, by all means, demonstrate that individualized instruction programs tailored to meet the needs of the students is an inferior way to educate a child. Don't forget to use examples from history like Lincoln, Bowditch, Edison, Curie, to name a few.
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.
Advocating so much big government control is hardly becoming for someone who calls themselves conservative.
Matter of fact, it's not a conservative position.
Forced government control of education and mandatory draft because it's good for you, whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not?
YES, that exactly! Ok, let’s say they are NOT Euclid, nor Pythagorus. But perhaps they just want to use the things those great men discovered as TOOLS!
I have bright 8th graders who have to learn multiplication tables because they have been allowed to use calculators since 5th grade! They cannot even multiply to the 12s!!
And DISCOVERING theorems. Why?? Oh it just makes me spew and sputter.
You should have seen this poor PhD Math person, who teaches High School math, struggling with these idiotic theories the Drama Person (aka Math Teacher of Teachers) was trying to make us learn. “This is not how math works,” he would sputter in frustration. “You are saying that X is not X?” “Well, yes, because there are many ways to calculate that.”
I would come home, share with my husband and son, both with great math minds - “What are they teaching you? You should RUN SCREAMING from that class.” hahah.
So I did.
Hang in there. What those kids need more than anything is to learn how to think logically and clearly, so they can be good conservatives when they grow up. hahaha.
I have a better idea, you stop spreading baseless lies and people will stop calling you out.
Quite a few detrimental changes to our schools have been made since the sixties, curriculum and other aspects, and the results show it. But the only solutions the leftist controlled public education system will likely be just more money to do more of the same. And I'm sure home schooling and private schools will continue to grow.