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Education Government The Almighty Buck Politics

Paying for Better Math and Science Teachers 660

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the get-what-you-pay-for dept.
Coryoth writes "While California is suffering from critical shortage of mathematics and science teachers, Kentucky is considering two bills that would give explicit financial incentives to math and science students and teachers. The first bill would provide cash incentives to schools to run AP math and science classes, and cash scholarships to students who did well on AP math and science exams. The second bill provides salary bumps for any teachers with degrees in math or science, or who score well in teacher-certification tests in math, chemistry and physics. Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?"
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Paying for Better Math and Science Teachers

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  • We have a winner! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:54PM (#18241970) Homepage Journal
    >...or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?

    Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Fyre2012 (762907)
      Whereas this will, undoubtedly, create discontent, I personally support anything that gives teachers more money and students more incentive to do better.

      Teachers work their asses off and mould students to be the leaders of tomorrow. Isn't that worth more than a pittance?
      As someone who is self-taught in computers (now a *nix Systems Admin), I loathed Math in HS because I saw little point to it. I was never explained 'why' math can be interesting, and it hurt me when i wanted to take CS a few years aft
      • by endianx (1006895) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:18PM (#18242330)
        I agree with most of your post.

        Teachers work their asses off
        Some teachers work their asses off. And those teachers deserve to be paid more than the ones that don't. As I understand it, that is not the way it is now and teacher's unions go crazy whenever somebody tries to change it.
      • Re:We have a winner! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by liquidpele (663430) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:23PM (#18242406) Journal
        As the husband of a teacher, the problem is the teachers are too overworked with bureaucracy. They are controlled to the point where they can't even make their lesson plans cover all the material required. My wife has to have each kid on a computer with some program for 45 minutes 3 times a week. She has 19 kids and 2 computers, and it's really just not possible without sacrificing other lessons. That, and she has been told she can only spend 30 minutes on Social studies or Science each day. Yes, that's an OR, she can't do both. The rest is reading and math (this is 3rd grade). And don't get me started on the No Child Left Behind bullshit. Teachers are not teachers anymore, they are babysitters.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yes, that's an OR, she can't do both.

          I think you mean XOR.
      • Re:We have a winner! (Score:5, Informative)

        by krlynch (158571) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:38PM (#18242650) Homepage

        Isn't that worth more than a pittance?

        According to salary.com, the median income for a "high school teacher" in the United States is currently either $49839 or $69120 if you include benefits. The Census Bureau reports that in 2005, the median household income (which includes more or less the same set of benefits quoted by salary.com) was $46,326. Do we pay teachers enough? I don't know the answer to that question ... but the median teacher is clearly not earning a "pittance" for their time. Perhaps it is a pittance compared to what they might be earning in the private sector, but I don't have enough information to make a decision either way....

        • From the Wall Street Journal (Friday, February 2, 2007), teachers actually make on average $34.06 an hour. That's a bit more than I make as a Software Engineer in the private sector. The whole reason teacher's salaries look low is that no one counts the massive amounts of time off teachers get (or all the civil servant benefits) that private sector workers can only dream about. The full article is available here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.ht ml?id=110009612 [opinionjournal.com]
        • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:19PM (#18244616)
          Are teacher overpaid or underpaid, or have we gotten it just right? Easy enough!

          Just look at the supply of teachers - are there enough qualified applicants for an open position at the salary you are offering? If I were an administrator, I would want at least twenty serious applications for a position, of which I could interview five or six and then pick the one who fit best. Are schools getting this many serious applicants?

          In most cases, yes. In some cases, they are getting far more applicants than is necessary, indicating that the salary offered is too high. A suburban school posting a job for an elementary position in any decent district will be flooded with applications, normally hundreds and sometimes exceeding a thousand. On the other hand, there are not enough qualified math, science, and special education teachers, as well as teachers willing to teach in troubled rural or urban schools. It is clear from this that any employer besides a public school would cut the pay of elementary teachers and boost the pay of math teachers until qualified people for both positions could be found.

          The reason I am not a secondary science teacher today is the poor pay. I make twice as much working as a researcher at a major corporation, and have a job that shuts off at 5pm each day without all the headaches. On the other hand, few elementary or English teachers could make double their teachers' pay. Indeed, few of them could even match it in the private sector.

          Colleges and universities do not pay all professors the same. They know how to do it, and prove it can be done. Public schools need to move beyond the silly "all teachers are equal" mindset they have been stuck in for decades. It is killing education.
    • by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:06PM (#18242138) Homepage
      Wait a sec...

      or is it simply going to breed discontent among under-qualified teachers?

      Fixed it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by kjkeefe (581605)
        DING DING DING to the parent!!!
      • by ottothecow (600101) <ottothecow@NosPam.gmail.com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:39PM (#18242676) Homepage
        If you look at the university level, professors are certainly not paid the same (it varies a HUGE amount based on field unlike high school teachers).

        Professors have to be paid based on the opportunity cost decisions they must make and as such people like phyiscs professors, economics professors, law professors, etc make a lot more money than english, classics, history type professors. This may not seem fair since they both do the same sort of work, teaching classes possibly consisting of the exact same students but you have to think about their other options. A physics professor could make good money in industry instead of teaching and similarily the opportunity cost of a law professor teaching is being a lawyer and the cost to an econ professor of teaching is the possibility of making a ton of money in business/consulting. If you are going get qualified professors in these fields, you are going to have to pay them a wage closer to what they could earn outside of acadamia.

        The only reason I see this not being a valid case for high school teachers is that there is a bigger qualification gap. I feel fairly confident that given a curriculum (and I guess the education credits needed to qualify me to do so) I could teach science or algebra to a bunch of 16 year olds or show them how to construct a thesis but I am in no way qualified to be a college professor which would require me to possess a PhD in my field (which usually assumes a masters) and extensive time investment before being granted a real professorship. As a matter of fact, I remember being taught courses in high school by instructers who clearly had not studied the subject they were teaching...

        Thus I see why the pay-gap is a legitimate idea but it probobly doesnt apply well enough to high school teachers (who dont necessarily have the qualifications to make the opportunity cost argument valid)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ponies_OMG (965954)
          Actually, professors pay is linked to how much money they can bring in. Since engineering or science profs can usually bring in more money than english profs, they are paid better.

          Teaching is not the main purpose of the professors. And it's nothing new - I learned about it 35 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        ...simply going to breed discontent among under-qualified teachers?

        So, wait...teachers of non-science subjects are inherently underqualified? I'm a scientist and I still find that conclusion a tad objectionable. Or were you limiting the conclusion to science teachers alone?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kalirion (728907)
        Heh, this reminds me of my 5th grade homeroom teacher. She was teaching us that 1 square meter = 100 square centimeters. I had to draw a diagram to prove to her that she was wrong. When she finally understood she told me that I'm right, but I should sit down and not mention it to the rest of the class.
      • Perhaps an arts teacher will end up being paid less than a science teacher. Welcome to the real world!

        An arts degree does not set you up for any useful function beyond teaching. They can pay art teachers squat and the only competition comes from McDonalds burger-flipping jobs.

        A degreed scientist/math person has far better prospects and the schools will have to compete to attract them.

    • Honestly, you should see what it takes to become a teacher, it isn't much. Most of the people teaching math and science in schools today majored in "education" where they sit around imitating classroom environments. The teachers are college-level but learning math at the same level as they will teach their students. Often the teachers are just one lesson ahead of these kids up to the point where they've taught it so long they just have it memorized. Even then they are good at one subject but to call the
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Metasquares (555685)

        In my undergraduate university, education majors were required to declare a secondary major. While it was true in general that the math/ed majors were less adept with mathematics than the pure math majors, they certainly had the passion, conviction, and skill required to teach mathematics in secondary education. I believe that they were required to take the same mathematics curriculum and they had to pass the Math Praxis before they could teach. These people were not "one lesson ahead" of grade school, but

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990)
        "Honestly, you should see what it takes to become a teacher, it isn't much."

        It is enough to discourage people who have degrees in their fields from entering teaching. Why would I want to sacrifice at least a few years of very good pay just to qualify to become eligible to teach in the field I already have a degree in?

        (In MA, at least, you need a teaching certification which requires extra schooling in education to get. Don't know what the rule is in other states.)
    • by BIG_E_IN_V_T (1068392) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:09PM (#18243112)
      My mother is a teacher, a lot of my friends are teachers, and I worked IT at a high school. I've never seen another profession that whines and complains as much as teachers. It's engrained in their culture. It's how they socialize. They will complain about anything and everything.
  • Teacher shortage? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bdr529 (1063398) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:54PM (#18241992)
    If there is, as the article suggests, a "critical shortage of mathematics and science teachers" in CA, and that the "problem with advanced math and science is that those with the education to teach it can make a lot more money not teaching it", then it should be painfully obvious that if you wish to correct this "shortage" of talent, you'll need to up the pay scale of math and science teachers to make it an attractive career choice.

    Either that, or enslave post-grads for a few years and FORCE them to work at public school wages. That'll work... Yeah.

    Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?"
    I hate "IS/OR" questions like this. The answer to both is YES. Pay which is competative with industry will attract science grads to teach. It will also cause "discontent among teachers" who somehow feel that all teachers should earn the same -- regardless of education/demand for certain skillsets.

    Queue the teachers union to strike/protest.

    • There's a program in my home state of Delaware to provide full/near full scholarships to anyone who goes to college and becomes a teacher, provided they sign a contract saying they'll teach 5 (?) years in the state.

      Why not do it for math/science? "No money for college? Just teach some kids for a few years after you're done and we'll foot the bill". Seems like a nice win/win situation.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:55PM (#18241994) Journal

    This proposed system to get better math and science educators and educations sounds like a meritocracy approach, which may be a foreign concept to some in the heavily union-controlled teacher community. It would seem that something as important as the education of our children the most important goal would be to fund and organize the most effective educational system possible.

    While I don't know the intricacies of the teachers' unions, I've had enough discussions with my sister, a teacher, to suspect the best interests of the children are rarely in play in decsions around who should teach and how much those who teach should be paid. If this is really true, it is probably the wrong approach.

    A central tenet of the school pay system appears to be their main stumbling block: FTA:

    Like all Kentucky public school districts, Beechwood has a set pay scale for teachers based on experience. There is no differential pay for teaching tougher or less-desirable courses.

    There's a certain insanity to the notion that different demand-disciplines (in the market workplace) should not help guide salary distribution in the teaching systems. High-demand, high-pay disciplines should drive high-pay teaching positions. If an English teacher's 50% cut to a Physics teacher's pay bothers the English teacher, he (she) need only get the necessary background to qualify to teach physics. It seems like a simple equation... it's kind of (not exactly) how it works in the job market.

    I'm all for a meritocracy for teachers, and not just in the math and sciences. Unfortunately, from past observations, as long as government runs educational systems, and unions govern teacher selection, the "finest education" for the children is likely the last result we'll see.

    Want to place odds on whether Kentucky pulls off getting these bills passed? And, if passed, want to double down on the teachers' unions' resistance? That said, good luck to Kentucky... I hope they pull it off.

    • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:58PM (#18242036) Homepage
      Pay should be based on qualifications and performance, not experience.
      • by qwijibo (101731) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:26PM (#18242462)
        Performance is a hard thing to measure. Qualifications are a measure of a minimum skill set, often at a particular point in time. When you try to measure performance, people tend to maximize for the criteria being measured, even if it's counterproductive to doing their primary job.

        Teachers get rated based on how their students do on standardized tests, so they teach students to be good at the test, regardless of how relevant that information is outside of the test. People complain about teaching to the test, but insist on metrics that require some manner of measurement. It's a catch 22.

        This is even worse since the teachers get no choice in their students. How would you feel if your performance was based on your ability to get a bunch of goldfish to do math?

        I'm all for rating people based on their performance, but in practice it always comes down to something documented clearly in such a brain dead manner that people aren't afraid of being sued. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to see the difference between someone who is really good at their job and someone who is good at gaming the system.
    • by garcia (6573) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:07PM (#18242148) Homepage
      A central tenet of the school pay system appears to be their main stumbling block

      That's a stumbling block of *all* unionized workplaces. Instead of paying people based on their performance they pay everyone based on their years in.

      This type of reward system creates an environment that's filled with indifference. "Why should I work hard and come up with new and exciting lesson plans when I'm going to be paid exactly the same as Bob Smith who sits on his tenured ass and doesn't engage the students at all?"

      It's a real problem where I used to work and it was compounded with supervisors that have limited budgets and individuals used to receiving their yearly raises and not looking for upward advancement. So you have people that do nothing more than the bare minimum, don't have any goals, and are just happy to be great at making themselves look busier than they really are while complaining that Joe is working hard and making them look bad.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This proposed system to get better math and science educators and educations sounds like a meritocracy approach

      ...until you consider the fact that they want to base their salaries on the performance of their class.

      There are several problems with this idea. The first, and most serious in my mind (but I am Not a Teacher, I have only discussed this with some of them) is that this will be based on standardized testing. As we all (should) know, testing is actually a poor indicator of future performance. Some p

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scruffy (29773)
        The fourth problem is anti-science politics. We say we want science, but please leave out evolution, global warming, and, by God, don't say anything about sex.
    • (One stray thought let to another. =))

      > he (she) need only get the necessary background to qualify to teach physics.

      The requirements go down when there's a shortage, of course, so this isn't as hard as it sounds. Of course, to be honest, with the exception of a few particular courses--some AP stuff, advanced language stuff, and I suppose music--an intelligent person should be able to teach any high school course. (Based on the difficulty of high school courses at my school in the late 90s, and given a
  • Kentucky... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frosty_tsm (933163) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:56PM (#18242010)

    and cash scholarships to students who did well on AP math and science exams.
    They don't say "Where education pays" for nothing.

    (it's on the welcome signs as you enter the state)
  • May backfire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:58PM (#18242032) Homepage Journal
    Depending on how this is funded, it may backfire. If the state is paying the salary difference directly, that may work, but otherwise school districts will avoid hiring teachers who qualify for the extra pay to keep within budget. The system already makes it quite difficult for experienced teachers to get jobs; my wife was once told by a principal that he would love to hire her, but the superintendent said he would only approve up to three years of experience.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sparr0 (451780)
      Why didn't she just work for less? If I was out of work and no one would hire me for my normal rate, I would take a position that paid less.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by eln (21727)
        The teachers union mandates certain pay levels at certain years of experience. You can't take less money just to get hired, even if you wanted to.

        This may be seen as a union problem, but I see it more as a school budget problem. Schools don't have enough money, and they don't allocate enough of the money they do have to teacher salaries.

        Good teachers are in high demand and short supply, which in a normal business would result in higher pay. However, with teaching there's some sort of nonsense myth that t
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          This may be seen as a union problem, but I see it more as a school budget problem. Schools don't have enough money, and they don't allocate enough of the money they do have to teacher salaries.

          It's both. Schools don't have enough money, and the unions force them to spend their money in inappropriate, unfair ways. Mr. Bob who has taught half-assedly for ten years makes vastly more than Mr. Jim who has taught with all his effort for five years, and is actually helping children. It's not a meritocracy, it's P

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by crow (16139)
        The union contract required them to pay her based on all of her experience; there was no option of coming in at a lower step on the pay scale.
  • Here is a thought (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:58PM (#18242034) Journal
    Why dont we have our students actually learn in school and not pander to the test mentality which has proven to be ineffective and misleading.

    Even better, why dont we stop comparing our entire populations abilities to the abilities of only the best of other countries.

    Heck even better, why dont we just accept the fact that a lot of people are just not cut out to being college grads and help them better themselves in a industrial field like other countries do.

    • by NETHED (258016) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:16PM (#18242300) Homepage
      EXACTLY! Not everyone should go to college. I know far to many "business" majors, or "communications" majors who leave college after 4-5 years of drunkenness (see face-book...) with a huge student loan and expect to earn 50K+ per year. Then the reality of the marketplace hits like a ton of bricks and you have these 'grads' earning a bit above minimum wage working retail or something unrelated to their college education.

      There is an unhealthy stigma that goes along with people not going to college, and I disagree with it. College, while wonderful for some, is not good for others. 2 year trade schools, or apprenticeships should be encouraged far more than they are. And this is relevant to the topic because the students are told by their teachers that if they don't go to college, they will be useless to society. (or at least thats how I was taught)

      There is a problem with the teaching system in the United States, and it starts with the students being far too empowered. If little Johnny does something wrong, teacher (rightly!) punishes Johnny, he cries to Mommy, and Mommy sides with Johnny. Teacher's hands are tied and so they stop caring. I have plenty of friends that are teachers, and this is a common story. There are more problems, but I firmly believe that the problem originates at discipline.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        There is a problem with the teaching system in the United States, and it starts with the students being far too empowered. If little Johnny does something wrong, teacher (rightly!) punishes Johnny, he cries to Mommy, and Mommy sides with Johnny. Teacher's hands are tied and so they stop caring. I have plenty of friends that are teachers, and this is a common story. There are more problems, but I firmly believe that the problem originates at discipline.

        WHAT?

        You have no idea what you are talking about at al

  • Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?

    Why can't it be both?
  • Simple logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:00PM (#18242064) Homepage Journal
    Teachers face the same hurdles that you may experience in the IT field. Most of us have been in the position where you ae looking to take on a job that you are more than qualified for. You get the "We think you are overqualified for this position", which translates to "You are bound to want too much money". The same applies to teachers.
  • Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?

    I most certainly believe so. In the general workforce, this is generally the case. Those with degrees in English, who sit typing manuals all day generally don't get paid as well as engineers do. So, the schools would have to compete with the differing pay scales accordingly.

    In general, I do believe teachers are vastly underpaid. However, a Mat
  • How about basing teacher pay on performance?

    I mean, having a degree certainly doesn't mean you can teach anything.

    Now that I've done the heavy lifting someone reply with the performance metrics.
    • by Darth Maul (19860)
      You can't do that because then you might have to hold people accountable. You must be new the United States. We don't do that here anymore, thankyouverymuch.

      "All the rights, none of the responsibility"
    • by nomadic (141991) * <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:14PM (#18242278) Homepage
      How about basing teacher pay on performance?

      And who judges performance?

      If it's the school administration, then you risk the principal's favorites getting paid just because they're the favorites.

      If it's based on standardized tests, then you just get teachers teaching kids how to take standardized tests, which is ultimately results in a lousier education.
  • Only in America (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:02PM (#18242084) Homepage

    We already spend a shit load of money on education and the results are poor at best. So what do we do? Spend more money of course! I think the US needs to look at other cultures to see how its done. We're obviously missing something and it definitely isn't money.

    gasmonso http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • Re:Only in America (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Paulrothrock (685079) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:11PM (#18242228) Homepage Journal

      The highest educated populations in the western world are the Scandinavian countries. There, motherhood, childcare, and educational professions are looked upon as great callings that have a huge influence on the future prosperity of the country. Therefore, it's easy to justify paying them well.

      In the US, it seems that most valuable female is the one who looks like a dirty catholic schoolgirl and the most valuable male is the one who can best jump on top of other males in the mud while wearing tights. Teachers and child care workers are looked down upon as lazy.

      So it's not as easy as method. We need to change the culture.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The highest educated populations in the western world are the Scandinavian countries. There, motherhood, childcare, and educational professions are looked upon as great callings that have a huge influence on the future prosperity of the country. Therefore, it's easy to justify paying them well.

        Eh. I live here. In Denmark. Teacher's base pay is a little above unskilled worker's, though it raises slightly more quickly. Childcare, less so. Motherhood? These are the countries of equal opportunity. At best, motherhood is regarded as a nice hobby if you don't overindulge. (Fatherhood, I'm pleased to say, is getting increased respect these days --- at this rate, it might approach the mother ditto in 30 or 40 years).

        However, there is no shortage of teachers or childcarers in most regions, the exceptio

  • Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?

    More competitive pay may attract science grads who could make more elsewhere, but I'd argue that it's worthwhile to avoid breeding discontent by giving all teachers that same raise. They certainly deserve it for all the extra hours a teacher puts in grading, preparing lessons, and other "homework." Counting all that, my teacher friends put i
  • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:06PM (#18242140) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to be a teacher. Some of the greatest influences on my life have been teachers. I like teaching kids science and computers, and I've got a talent for it.

    But I'll never be a teacher under current systems.

    I'm not patient with kids who don't get it and insist on me walking them through everything. None of my favorite teachers were either. I'm not respectful of authority either, unless it's earned that respect. None of my favorite teachers were either. And if parents insist that little Taylor or Brittany didn't earn the C they got on the test, I'll tell them where they can shove their complaints. And I'm not about to waste my time teaching kids for a test. Some of the best lessons in life can't be tested. I'd reward kids for creativity, an inquisitive nature, the questioning of current thinking, and for making me look dumb. All the kinds of things my favorite teachers rewarded me for.

    I feel that, in this current climate, I wouldn't last a year as that kind of teacher. In fact, two of my favorite teachers got fired after I had them because of complaints and friction with the administration. And they were replaced with robots designed to make more robots. Indeed, most of the teachers I remember fondly only lasted as long as they did because they produced results despite friction with the administration and parents.

    • by corbettw (214229)
      What about teaching in a private school? Maybe you could find one that teaches in the method you've described, sounds similar to the Montessori method.
    • by richieb (3277) <richieb@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:54PM (#18242906) Homepage Journal
      I'm not patient with kids who don't get it and insist on me walking them through everything.

      Good thing you are not a teacher. What you are saying that you could do that job only when it's easy. Anyone can.

      Being able to control, teach and inspire kids that are not at all interested in the subject is something that a great teacher can do. That's where the art of teaching comes in.

      I taught computer programming adults who were quite motivated to learn. This was a piece of case. My wife teaches engilish to 7th graders in an urban school. After few months all her students love her and many learn to love literature. Teaching in that environment is a completely different skill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        Good thing you are not a teacher. What you are saying that you could do that job only when it's easy. Anyone can.

        I can relate to the GP. Why is it my problem that the student can't study? If I give an algorithm to solve some problem (be it math, science, English, foreign language, etc.), at the high school level, I should presume that the student has the ability to record and apply the algorithm. If they don't understand the why, I can help. If I show them once, and they can't do it themselves in a me
  • by Kris_B_04 (883011) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:09PM (#18242178) Homepage Journal
    Pay is a serious issue with teaching (I won't even get started on the rest of the issues).

    "Is such differentiated pay the right way to attract science graduates who can make much more in industry, or is it simply going to breed discontent among teachers?"

    Science and Math are good starting points. But don't stop there!
    The entire United States Educational System needs a complete overhaul.

    Teachers should teach because they enjoy it. Being "attracted" into it isn't going to make them be good teachers. In fact, it may turn out like college where you get the really bright mathematicians and scientists teaching, but they can't relate worth a darn to the students.

    Money is also a good start. Really talented people end up leaving the profession because they simply can't pay the bills. Making the pay more competitive will keep more of the good teachers. Fixing some of the other problems will also retain teachers, but getting the teachers in, paying them better and teaching (or allowing) them to be good teachers is what needs to happen, nation-wide, not just Kentucky or California.

    The overhaul must start somewhere, and if they look at pay first, that's great. You can eventually weed out the poor teachers, keep the good teachers and our children will finally have an education they deserve!! (Without having to move overseas to truly educate them well.)

    So, it's a start. But it can't stop there. Yes, there will be discontent among teachers but once the ball starts rolling and things improve for one and all, then everyone wins.

    My thoughts as an ex-teacher,
    Kris

  • The part that disturbs me here is the implicit understanding that our non math/science teachers are 'good enough' as they are, and we needn't get more proficient teachers in all subjects via said financial incentives. Aren't there articles written every month about things like how a majority of high school seniors have such poor reading skills that they can't read a train schedule effectively?

    This is not, of course, to say that the majority of teachers aren't apt. They probably are. But give them 16-18 s

  • The US NEEDs more math and science teachers, especially good ones. The rest of the world exceeds in these fields more than our younger generation can. With politics messing things up in the science classroom about creationism over evolution, it is a huge step backward and will definitely damage our country's reputation for being the mecca of new technology research.

    I do know of some math teachers who used to work for Lockheed Martin and they were really focused on making sure every teen in their classroom.
  • AP students (Score:3, Insightful)

    by proberts (9821) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:16PM (#18242304) Homepage
    One of the problems this will encourage is that these days parents *expect* their kids to be in AP classes even if they're not qualified to be there. I recently judged a high school science fair, and it was pretty plain that most students didn't even do the minimum, a few just checked off the boxes, and very, very few really tried to do the work required for science.

    The first thing that needs to happen is that AP classes need to not be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator because of political reasons, and everyone shouldn't get a pony- we have to get back to having kids *lose* if they don't make the cut.
  • Won't it create shortages in other states potentially? They have to be attracted from somewhere? If you waited for the teachers presently in the state to upgrade, it would probably take too long. Sounds to me like the recipe for cannibalization of the school system.
  • by macemoneta (154740)
    As far as I've been able to determine from friends and family in the teaching profession, the problem isn't so much compensation as it is walnut-brained administrators and parents.

    If you make schools immune to civil lawsuits, put teachers ahead of parents and stop appointing the retarded friends and family of politicians as school administrators, you will have a functioning school system again. Parents that don't like that situation can take their kids to private school or home school them.

    Stupid kids need
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:27PM (#18242494)
    My wife teaches middle school science in Northern Kentucky. Just consider the following a general complaint. We're pretty disappointed with the district she works for, to the point of considering private school for our kids. A couple of reasons: The district is cutting out AP courses. Maybe it was to qualify for the cash to start a program. They are also cutting teacher positions (including science) because of a budget shortfall. Lastly, she may get shifted from science to special-ed. Why? Because she has two masters degrees and is certified in Science, Language Arts, and Special-Ed. So even though she loves teaching science, has students that write poems about what a great teacher she is, she may not get to decide what subject she teaches. If there's a shortage of teachers in any subject, it's special ed.

    Oh, and she probably won't get the bonus.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:01PM (#18243022) Homepage
    The central planning of the Soviet Union came up with a new economic plan every five years.

    That Kentucky (or any state in the U.S.) applies the same logic to education is no surprise, but why do Slashdotters acquiesce to determining teachers' salary by central planning and government mandate? The free market should determine teachers' salaries. The prerequisite, of course, would be to eliminate government-run schools and let private schools compete for tuition money from parents.

    Yes, I am one of the tens of thousands of signatories to the Proclamation for the Separation of School and State [schoolandstate.org]

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:04PM (#18243048) Journal
    I work for public education, and get to visit many a classroom and the thought of putting my kid in a public school scares the crap out of me so much, that my kids don't go to public school, they attend a homestudy charter school. Both will graduate High School with upto two years of college credits, something not even offered in public schools.

    I've seen good and bad teachers in the schools I work in, and quite frankly, there aren't enough good teachers. Period. Like the teacher who was teaching life lessons from the master "Rikki Lake" (No kidding). Or the Social Science Teacher teaching made up crap and opinions as "fact". Or the Math teacher who didn't know the formula for the area of a circle (No kidding), Or the teacher that has four computers on his desk and that is all he does all day, instead of teaching the special education kids in his charge, or .....

    It is pretty scary stuff, if you ask me. The scariest part is that NONE of the teachers I mentioned could be fired, because the Union says so. It is clear that the Union doesn't really care about their profession, or it would be EMBARRASSED of many of its members.

    I feel really sorry about those teachers that are actually good. However, they cannot overcome the crap coming from the worst of them. Sad, but true.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:15PM (#18243204)
    I've sometimes considered teaching, but after seeing what a relative went through when earning her teaching certificate, there's no way in hell I'd do it under the current system.

    At least in her classes, the students were apathetic and disrespectful. In her assessment, basically zero learning occurred.

    Contrast that to what I get when I teach my kids at home. We snuggle up and read a homeschooling book about astronomy, and they actually learn. We pop in a "Magic Schoolbus" DVD rental, and even I learn stuff about human physiology, etc. My 6 year old knows multiplication table up through 7's, and reads at a 3rd-grade level.

    Seeing the heartbreaking gap between what most kids can learn, and what most kids do learn in public school, keeps me from ever wanting to perpetuate that environment. I'm considering working with small groups of kids and possibly even doing some math teaching to home-schooled kids. But public schools - no way. It's mostly a waste.
  • I Heart Money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hnice (60994) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:45PM (#18243592) Homepage
    I'm a teacher, and I love money, but here's the problem:

    No one gets into this for the money, and no one stays for the money -- not math teachers, anyway. I did something before this that paid twice as much, as many of us do, but then I got bored and decided to try this.

    So the issue is, if people aren't in teaching for the money, why do we suspect that we'll be able to attract more people to teaching with more money?

    Now, there's the reasonable argument that there's some segment of the population that would like to teach, but can't because the pay is so low, but there's two things wrong with this argument:

    1. teachers are never going to make as much as, say, modelers or programmers, and
    2. i have some reason to believe that the sort of people who are just waiting for teaching kids to be really, really profitable might not be the crowd that we want to attract, anyway.

    People get into teaching because they like teaching. People leave teaching because it's annoying a lot of the time. Here's how you attract people, in my personal fake expert opinion:

    1. make it interesting. don't assign people to courses just because they're what's open, and don't make them wait for someone to die to get to try teaching calculus.
    2. give them support, and help them develop. put time into schedules for conferences and bring in real lecturers, provide journals and during the day time to discuss, and fund coursework into anything.
    3. throw out the textbooks. they're all shit (with the exception of harold jacobs).
    4. demand real expertise and professionalism. make math teacher a job that it's hard to get. if i quit tomorrow, i could work anywhere in Maine by next week. this isn't good, rather it tells me that i don't need to be very good -- and if that's true, how good am i, really?

    It's a great job, and you can't fix the shortage with money because things are so bad in terms of available teachers that you're just going to drag the good ones to rich districts and force poor schools to take whoever's left -- and you would be pretty surprised if i were to tell you exactly how bad things are in terms of expertise. The right answer is to make it a job that is attractive in all its aspects, and one that's admirable and challenging. That's all we geeks want, anyway, isn't it? A challenge, and some acknowledgement that we've got giant freaking brains?
  • Absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Durandal64 (658649) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @02:23AM (#18247090)
    Let's be honest. Math and science are more important. Period. History is a very close second. We need kids who understand the basics of the scientific method and mathematics so that they know how to solve problems. We need kids who understand history so that the ones who become politicians don't end up fucking thing up as badly as the current crowd has. So yes, math and science teachers should be paid more than the art teachers. And football coaches should be paid less than art teachers.

    But really, the problem with education isn't pay-grade differences. It's actually a situation where liberals and conservatives have both come together to fuck things up. The conservatives offer Christian fundamentalist parents to put pressure on school boards to teach creationism or similar frauds, uneducated morons sitting on education boards to decide what is and isn't science and a ridiculous philosophy that free-market capitalism actually applies to education in the form of "No Child Left Behind". Oh yeah, and they have a worrisome trust for standardized test scores as a benchmark for performance.

    The liberals, on the other hand, offer hideously overpowered teacher's unions that keep shitty teachers employed, an inane attitude that no kid should ever fail and an unreasonable expectation that every kid should go to college. Really, when did becoming a plumber or electrician become something so terrible? You can make a good, honest living doing plenty of trade jobs. But not every kid belongs in college, and filling colleges with kids who don't belong there sucks resources from actual higher education and diverts it to joke majors like "park and recreation management". And since every kid has to go to college now, they have to have enough majors for everyone!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by freedom_india (780002)
      Math and science are more important. Period. History is a very close second.

      Economics comes a 2nd. How else do we explain trillion-dollar deficits, $200 hammers and toilet covers, and Hedge fund losses like LTCM [wikipedia.org] and the rest?

      If our students have a good grasp of maths and economics, they can get this economy under control in no time.

      History should be 3rd to make sure they don't do a Bernie Ebbers or Jack Grubman.

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