Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Math and Science Problems

Great article about the shortage of math and science teachers affecting even suburban schools now. These are schools that normally have a waiting list for jobs and now they cant find math and science teachers. Why is that?

Salary is definitely a factor. But the article points out that just 1% of the degrees in this country were in math and science. Our K-12 schools are turning out less students with a passion and expertise in math and science and that is affecting the number of people who go into the field. And they won’t get the passion unless they have great math and science teachers to inspire them.

There is hope. I always say that it is not one thing, it is everything that eventually solves a problem. First, we need serious cross training of great teachers through summer institutes in math and science. After the completion of this training, these teachers should get a significant bump in pay to teach science. The training would be ongoing to ensure that they continue to enhance their skills. Many areas have a surplus of elementary teachers – find those with desire and help them help us.

Second, we need more professionals in the field to transition into teaching. There are many out there who cannot wait to teach but will not go through the traditional hours of course work. We continue to get large numbers of career changers into the classroom through the ABCTE program but we could do more if states and districts work with us.

Third, we cannot ignore the basic economics of supply and demand. When there is a shortage of a resource, the price goes up. We need differentiated pay to attract more math and science experts into our schools.

Fourth, we need new math and science models for teaching. Part time teaching from the semi-retired, sharing physics teachers among 3-4 high schools and using an online science master teaching hundreds of students while in class teaching aides work with groups of students all need to be used to stretch limited resources.

This current math/science teaching shortage is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We need action now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Education Research Shows Nothing but High Price Tags

Two articles this week on education research with no real winner or loser in either. Shocking. The first study is the result of an exhaustive study of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Ed Week says that the results show that “National Board Teachers found to be Effective”. Wow – not exactly a resounding victory.

Next up was a study of supplemental education services (SES). In this case the results were mixed with a Rand study showing some improvement but other studies showing no real improvement. Not exactly a resounding defeat.

Notice a trend. It costs a lot of money to conduct a study to determine student achievement yet we cannot really see any truly significant results. In the case of the National Board, the effect size was .04 – this means that only 4% of the gains made by students can be attributable to the fact that the child had a National Board teacher. Even if the results are better, the samples sizes are small due to the cost and the detractors of a program will call it out based on sample size even if it is statistically significant.

There is no slam dunk in studies of student achievement. It is sad but true that the costs are too high and the variation seems to be too great to really get a feel for the success of one program or another. Maybe we need a new measure?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Teacher testing is necessary

If you have not seen Flypaper over at Fordham – they have a lot of posts on their blog. They had a recent post about a study that will appear soon that says that teacher testing deters good people from becoming teachers. I posted the following response on their blog:

I am very curious as to how they came to this conclusion that the test is the barrier that keeps potentially great teachers from teaching. I can honestly say that after seeing 6,000 people start our program and less than 40% actually complete, that our test is absolutely necessary. This is because many of those potential teachers “whose educational backgrounds qualify them to teach” cannot compose a coherent essay and don’t have the most basic knowledge of their subject matter.

I wholeheartedly agree that a test with a passing rate of 95-99% is a useless waste of time and money. If every university had a minimum standard for graduation that meant that every teacher would have outstanding writing skills and subject matter mastery, we would be the first to push for the elimination of teacher testing. But we are nowhere near those kinds of results. The essays we see from college graduates are nothing short of dismal.

And many of the people going through our program would much rather take a test then sit through countless hours of useless classes.

The McKinseystudy of the best school systems in the world found that selectivity of teachers was a key driver of their success. We have to select the best teachers with tests that truly measure ability to very rigorous standards, like the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence exams, in order to compete in the world market.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Transforming Schools

Education next has a great article on transforming schools. The authors explain the current systems in historical context as organizations invest in innovation/technology and see no return on that investment. Schools everywhere are experiencing this and it is because we are trying to “cram innovation into the existing operating model” which never results in improvements.

They say that the innovation rarely ends up competing directly against the existing model. The new technology must grow in non-existing markets in order to disrupt the current model to create systemic change. This is already happening in education as online programs are getting students to finish their degrees, offering AP online, allowing rural districts to offer courses in high school that they never could offer, and offering online programs including SES online.

Our current educational structure is not serving our students well. Innovative use of technology will continue to progress on the fringes of current processes and eventually, it will cause a total disruption of our educational systems. Once that happens, we will finally get the improvements we need to compete in the global arena.

Organizations that are ready to accept that technology and embrace this change will be the ones that survive. It is a very exciting time to be in education. Read the article.