Wednesday, August 22, 2007

STEM needs to start early

Where do young students achieve their passion for math and/or science? It starts from having a great experience in math and science in the early grades. If you have that great elementary teacher who has a passion for math and science, they will pass that on to our young students and ensure they become so proficient that they will actually like math and science in secondary school.

Yet STEM focuses on high school and college. By then it is too late – if students don’t have the basics down, they will fear the math, loathe the science and all the investment in the world won’t change their attitude. People do what they are good at (which should keep me from writing but doesn’t). If you are not good at math and science you are not going to go chose a career in that field. And to be good at those subjects you have to get the basics in elementary school from someone who is outstanding at those subjects.

Are elementary teachers proficient at math and science? Not really. Our own certification demonstrates this time and time again as potential teachers and current teachers struggle with the rigorous math and science sections. Looking at the annual College Board report shows that the only majors with lower math SAT scores of college bound seniors are home economics and public affairs. If we are ever going to regain “the competitiveness”, we have to have elementary teachers who are passionate about math because they have outstanding knowledge - and they will generate that passion in the next generation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Standards Alignment

We are talking with many states right now and one of the big questions we get concerns teaching standards. Do the ABCTE preparation and testing standards align with the state standards? So, we hire an independent firm to go line by line between our standards and the state standards to ensure that they are properly aligned.

But the greater question that should be asked concerns the actual alignment of the total educational system. Are the student standardized tests aligned to the student curriculum in the state and are the teacher standards aligned to that student curriculum and, ultimately is the student curriculum aligned with the university requirements and/or job requirements. In a perfect world, if students needed to know quadratic equations to succeed in life, that requirement would be in the student curriculum, they would be tested at the grade level required and the teacher for that grade level would be expected to have a thorough knowledge of the subject and how to teach that subject.

I am not making the case for national standards as I firmly believe that it would take way too long and cost way too much money. But I do believe that part of any NCLB legislation should include rewards (not punishment) for states that demonstrate true alignment between their university/job skill requirements, teaching standards, student curriculum and annualized testing standards. No small task – but would certainly create a more focused and functional educational system.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

History vs Social Studies: we lose

Two years ago, our test development team began the lengthy process of creating our history exams. Our quest started in a time that now seems like a totally different world. It was a time when the Highly Qualified Teacher aspect of No Child Left Behind had yet to be neutered and (to properly mix metaphors) still had potentially scary teeth. So we listened and were told by “experts” and DC thinkers that “social studies” would not be tolerated. In order to be highly qualified, you needed to be an expert in your subject and therefore we should create separate certifications for U.S. history, world history, civics and geography.

Our History experts whole-heartedly agreed. They told us there was no way that you could possibly test someone’s knowledge of world and U.S. history, civics and geography in 100 questions. In order to create great minds in our schools, we absolutely had to have separate exams.

And so with clear minds and the focused vision of being on the right path, we created the absolute best U.S. history certification - - and right now, there is not a state out there that will use it.

The states know that they are now free to ignore HQT and can just submit innocuous plans each year to DOE demonstrating their road-map to become fully staffed with HQT teachers. If you read these plans, and I have, they are basically a narrative of what each state is currently doing and has been doing for quite some time. Social studies certifications will flourish and in-depth knowledge of history will not be a reality any time soon.

Lesson learned: it doesn’t really matter what the experts and those in DC say - - the only thing that matters is what states are willing to do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes" - Airplane

We had the ABCTE South Carolina launch last week with full press coverage and teacher recruitment events in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia. We had over 1,000 people request information from South Carolina – that is a pretty large group wanting to become teachers PLUS over 300 people attended the events and so far 40 have enrolled! Not a bad start and the Gov is doing a signing ceremony with me next week.

The irony – while I was in my hotel in Columbia, I ran into over 40 Pakistani teachers with varying degrees of English proficiency who have been brought in to teach in South Carolina schools. While this is an excellent exchange of cultures that could help with greater worldly understanding, the reality is that it just makes it that much harder to learn math and science.

Obviously, from our initial foray into the state, there are many South Carolinians who want to teach – they just needed to be recruited, have the right program and the right support to get them trained and ready to teach. And it seems like we are on the right track.

What drives us

Gone are the days of political rhetoric at ABCTE. We exist for one reason – to help states recruit, certify and retain quality teachers. Much has changed here and those changes are radically changing the way we are perceived. Bottom line from NCES numbers:

  • 1972: 25% of degrees earned were in education
  • 2004: 14% of degrees earned were in education

Labor statistics say that 18-40 year olds will hold 10 different jobs during that time frame of which just over half of the job changes will be career changes

Not enough people are going into education and no one stays in careers for life anymore.