The committee report titled Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future puts forward some interesting recommendations for our educational system to keep us competitive in today’s economy. The actions that I thought were the most interesting were those concerned with recruiting and training teachers.
Recruiting math and science teachers with 4-year scholarships (Action A-1) will definitely attract a number of college students but to keep them in the field of education, the incentives can’t stop after they enter the classroom. Math and science teachers in a K-12 school district such as Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) get paid the same salary as any other teacher in any other subject area. In today’s economy, that mean a starting salary of about $38,000 for a mathematics teacher, about one half of what they would earn if they were working for a private company in the public arena. In LAUSD, one’s salary is determined by the number of credits you have taken since your BA and how many years you have worked in the district, not by one’s skills as recommended by this committee report. The next question would be who determines a teacher’s skills? Is it based on the classes you have completed to how good a teacher you are? How do you define a good teacher?
Strengthening skills of teachers with summer education programs is a good approach but unless teachers are paid to attend in addition to the class fees, many will not either because of financial reasons or simply they do not want to give up their vacation time and at this time in LAUSD, you can not force a teacher to attend training during the summer. It is also interesting to note that many private companies will help pay for their employees to earn a higher degree and even give them time off from work to attend classes. Not so in K-12 school districts that are in the business of education but do not support furthering education for their teachers.
The statement that I found to be most interesting was about modeling a “K-12 curriculum materials modeled on a world-class standard”. In a country where no two states have the same curricular standards, it would be interesting to see how we measure up with other countries such as Japan or Germany. In a global economy we can not measure ourselves against ourselves but against other leading economies.