The Science and Skills of Teaching

By March 11, 2007Economy

Excellent article in today’s Contra Costa Times, “Science, math deficit holds back state,” analyzing how the lack of teachers trained in math and science contributes to students failing to learn those subjects, so necessary for successful careers and a growing economy.

NAM President John Engler is quoted, saying, “We don’t need unskilled workers in a high-tech manufacturing economy …And much of the service sector is getting to the point where they don’t need unskilled workers, either.”” Much of the story is also told through the experiences and perspective of Concord High School biology teacher Ellen Fasman.

For the majority of students, said Fasman, the problem with math and science has less to do with plumbing the depths of right triangles and more to do with teaching young people why they should care in the first place.

“Tying it into careers — that’s something we need to push for,” Fasman said. Her dream is to open a health academy and offer classes such as medical technology and sports medicine — “things they might actually be interested in,” she said.

May we add modern manufacturing to that proposed coursework?

NAM’s Engler has more to say on the subject of skills and test scores in this op-ed in the Worcester (Mass.) Business Journal, “Today’s students don’t measure up to today’s industry needs.”

UPDATE (March 13, 5 p.m.): The Contra Costa Times follows up with an editorial on teacher education. The editorial suggests teacher pay scales that reflect a competitive marketplace, and adds two recommendations we heartily endorse:

Schools should make it easier for people who would like to transition from industry to teaching math and science. Requiring some classroom education training makes sense, but the process of credentialing new teachers from industry needs to be expedited.

Schools also need to do a better job of motivating students to take math and science courses, which can lead them to well-paying jobs.

Kudos to the Times for reporting and opining on this critical issue.