The president has said that math and science breakthroughs are the way out of this economic crisis, but U.S. math and science scores are low among developed countries.

This begs the questions...
  • Is U.S. math and science education failing our students?
  • What can be done to help math and science teachers to better educate students?
According to research, students who had teachers that hold degrees in math and/or science score higher on math and science tests. This makes sense. As my principal has often said, "you can't teach what you don't know." Yet, about 75% of math and science teachers do not have an undergraduate degree (major or even minor) in the subjects they are teaching. This begs the question of whether they are literate or not in the subject(s) they are teaching.

  • Do the Praxis tests that teachers take prove that teachers are literate in their subject?
I find it interesting that acceptance scores are not equal on these tests. It's almost as if whatever subject is in high demand, accepts lower test scores. There are some subjects that are in such high demand that CT is offering to give teachers full certification for reaching a certain score on the content Praxis test. Excellence scores can be found here.

Research has shown that a great teacher is the most important factor in boosting student achievement for any subject. This includes such factors as socioeconomic status, class size, curriculum design, and parents’ educational levels. It has been showed that students of these highly effective teachers make about three times the academic gains of those with less talented teachers, regardless of the students’ demographics.
  • Why aren't teachers with low qualifications let go?
  • How can the competence level of teachers be improved?
Many teachers start teaching despite low salaries because they are trying to make a difference. I have often found that the difference they want to make has a time limit. It's almost as if the change does not happen fast enough, they become frustrated and leave the profession all together if they can. If they can't, they continue to teaching, converting to the dark side, becoming jaded teachers that take out their frustration on students year after year until they think becoming an administrator is the way to go. Maybe this is how "mean administrators" get created.

With research stating that teachers with academic majors in the subjects they teach have better results, I feel a sense of justification. There is no substitute for an expert in the field. Through the experiences that I have observed throughout my seven years of teaching with different colleagues, I have noticed that there is a difference.

Rather than have merit pay (which is backed up by little data), could there be a distinction between merit pay and teachers that have minimum requirements to teach? Teachers can increase on the pay scale based on their increasing knowledge attained involving a major in the subject they teach. Getting my first master's degree in educational leadership increases my level on the pay scale even though I was not an administrator. My second master's in math (which I teach) also increased my level on the pay scale although I feel as though it is much more justified (because I teach that subject).
  • Could this model work with other teachers?
  • Should academic master's degrees in the subject be worth more than some other master's degree in education?
  • Would student learning improve?
  • How can we find out what teacher should know and be able to do and reward them for it?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that content knowledge trumps context knowledge. Pedagogy and practice is just as important (if not more) than content knowledge. I'm more speaking on the teachers with equal training in pedagogy and content (not just pedagogy or not just content).
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