"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Science Teachers as Academic Bounty Hunters

Did you think that when Bush said 70,000 new math and science teachers that he meant 70,000 new math and science teachers? No, no, no--he meant to re-train the ones we already have, you see. This story from the NY Times:

President Bush's proposal, in Tuesday's State of the Union address, to increase the ranks of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers in math and science by 70,000 over four years would nearly triple the number of such teachers and, the administration hopes, make college-level courses available to more low-income students.

But the plan does not envision hiring new teachers. Rather, it proposes to retrain the math and science teachers on hand. According to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, nearly 60 percent of eighth graders in American schools — double the international average — are taught math by teachers who neither majored in math nor studied it to pass a certification exam.

The fact is that increasing the number of IB teachers is based on the Dallas incentive model, dreamed up by Peter O'Donnell, of the O'Donnell Foundation and contributor to the Rising Above . . . scare document that started all this nonsense. It is based on $2,000 in incentive pay for teachers who choose to teach IB courses and an additional $100 for each student that the teacher can sign up and get through the AP exam:
In describing his initiative, the president did not mention financial incentives for students and teachers, though Peter O'Donnell Jr., president of the O'Donnell Foundation, which has played a major role in the Dallas program, said the incentives were crucial to the program's success. "The teacher's really the driver to get increased participation," Mr. O'Donnell said. "They're out there recruiting students for their AP courses. That's one of the things that make the numbers go up each year."

Now does this make you wonder how many minority or poor students are likely to be recruited into this program if teachers are turned into academic bounty hunters whose teaching becomes focused by how many hundred dollar bills are coming her way? Or does this scheme make you wonder how much this will exacerbate the problem of unqualified math and science teachers in areas where the shortages are the worst? Or will this attract more undergraduate students to consider science and math teaching as a career instead of more high-paying career choices?

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