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.

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