Will higher pay for math teachers add up to more of them?

math (Medium)When I first started writing this blog two years ago, we had a discussion about whether hard-to-fill teaching slots in science and math should be paid at higher rate to entice people to the classroom.

At the time, a few of you argued that while today’s shortage might be math and science, tomorrow’s could be social studies and reading so differential pay was problematic.

But it appears the shortages in math and science are not going away any time soon, based on current college grads going into those teaching areas.

I had run a note on this blog a few weeks ago seeking math and science teachers willing to talk to the AJC for a story about a state incentive plan.

Thanks to those who responded and chatted with the reporter.

The story is now in the paper, and here is an excerpt:

By the end of the month, 3,100 of the state’s newest math and science teachers will receive from $1,461 to $6,577 through an incentive plan put into law in 2009 and funded for the first time this year.

Ashley Shaver, a second-year science teacher at Gwinnett County’s J.E. Richards Middle School, said the extra money coming her way is “welcome and exciting. … Times are hard, and everybody’s scrimping.”

The incentives — costing the state $12.3 million this year — are supposed to help entice and retain public school math and science teachers. They target newer math and science teachers in grades 6 to 12 by offering a first-year teacher the equivalent of a six-year teacher’s salary and narrowing the pay gap for teachers in between.

But with the economic downturn forcing spending cuts, including unpaid furlough days for teachers, lawmakers didn’t fund the incentives until earlier this year — well after the school year had started and long after then-Gov. Sonny Perdue sounded the alarm that in 2008 Georgia colleges produced only one physics teacher.

Math and science teachers who taught in the recently completed school year are to receive the incentive pay in a lump sum by June 30, the close of the state’s fiscal year. For a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s, it means a jump on the state salary schedule from $33,424 a year to $37,985, the current pay for a six-year teacher with the same experience. The teacher will keep that same rate of pay for the next five years, provided he or she still teaches math or science and the incentive is funded annually by lawmakers.

In some school systems, that’s a few dozen people. For example, in Forsyth County, incentive checks are going to 55 math and science teachers. But in Fulton, 264 teachers will receive the extra money.

The shortage of math and science teachers across the nation and in Georgia has been well-documented. A report from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission showed that in 2010 the state was facing teacher shortages in math, science, Spanish and special education, with the largest in Spanish.

Shortages are calculated, at least in part, based on the number of full-time teachers compared with the number of fully certified teachers, with the assumption being school systems would use only fully certified teachers if there were enough to go around.

But there aren’t enough. The percentage of Georgia public school teachers not fully certified in 2010-2011 was 9 percent in math, 9.7 percent in science and 16.4 percent in Spanish, according to information provided by the standards commission.

Philip Smith, who graduates in August from Georgia State University with a master’s degree in the art of teaching mathematics, hadn’t heard about the pay incentives for new teachers but liked the idea.

“It definitely has an appeal,” said Smith, who hopes to teach integrated math in public schools. “I’ll probably go to the highest bidder and to whatever school has a good reputation for taking care of teachers and getting results.”

Brian Benton, an engineering teacher at Cobb County’s Walton High School, said he expects the pay incentive to attract more people to teaching.

But he’s not sure how he feels about hardworking veteran teachers like himself being left out.

“I had to go through the ranks to earn my money,” said Benton, a 10-year teacher who is faculty adviser and coach for Walton’s award-winning robotics team. “How come you’re not paying me more?”

Alan Essig, a former state budget analyst who runs the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank, said time will tell what impact the incentives will have.

“Whether it is a token thing to say we’ve done something or whether it’s really going to have an effect on retention and recruitment of high-quality math and science teachers, that’s what we have to look at in the future,” he said.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teachers group, expressed serious reservations about the incentive plan when it was before the Legislature, spokesman Tim Callahan said. “What are we saying to our reading and social studies teachers [and] others?” Callahan said.

He also pointed out that lawmakers promised extra money to teachers who pursued National Board Certification, but later withdrew the offer.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

78 comments Add your comment

mathamaniac

June 26th, 2011
10:35 am

It would be interesting, statistically speaking, what the breakdown is for the percentage of Georgia public school teachers not fully certified in 2010-2011 in math and science in the metro Atlanta area. I think it would be quite low compared to the remainder of the state. Also, if you go to the TeachGA website, you will see that the number of vacant mathematics positions in other areas of GA far surpasses the number locally. My conclusion is that the extra pay could make a difference in hiring and retention but only in the areas of GA with a critical shortage of math/science teachers.

d

June 26th, 2011
10:47 am

Well, this sucks for a 7th year teacher being paid as a third year teacher due to no step increases. My sister will be a second-year math teacher next year and since I haven’t received a step in 4 years, she’s automatically going to be making more than me. I wouldn’t be upset if I had the same amount of experience as she does, but at this point, one wonders how much more experienced teachers can take.

NBCT

June 26th, 2011
10:52 am

This is adding insult to injury for the 2000 or so teachers in Georgia who pursued National Board certification with the lure of a 10% bonus for ten years only to have the state renege on its promise. We were told that the state didn’t have the money for such things.

oldtimer

June 26th, 2011
10:53 am

I think experienced teachers ought to get a bonus as well, D. It is kind of a slap that you are not being paid for your experience. I do believe signing bonuses in critical areas might work.

Special Education Teacher

June 26th, 2011
10:55 am

What about Special Education Teachers that teach every core subject? Isn’t SPED a critical shortage area? I guess not.

rob

June 26th, 2011
10:58 am

The world is beating us in math and science for the following reasons: 1 we teach everyone, some places in the world you dont go to school if you lack the mental capacity. Here under NCLB, those same students are expected to meet on level. All students are not going to test on level, some just lack the intelligence, sorry but that is just reality. No Child Left Behind is an unrealistic notion yet we waste huge amounts of money for it. The middle of the road kids are the ones left behind, because intellectually gifted kids and special ed kids are given all the funding and attention. 2. Culture-our culture does not foster or encourage education, parents no longer take their children to museums or to historical sites. They don’t teach them that learning is not just something that takes place in a classroom.

NCLB places such a heavy emphasis on math that it is leaving other subjects behind. I think we’re burning the kids out on math and science, to the point that other things are being lost, kids aren’t even learning to write in cursive anymore and sometimes social studies and history are not even being taught to the point we are producing future voters that are illiterate in citizenship.
We need to remember that all students are not cut out to be scientists or mathematicians and that art, music and literature has a place in education. Students that excel in those areas have a right to be exposed to it and not have those classes taken away in exchange for a class that will help them perform better on some state test that makes the state look good to the rest of the country. Is education about the kids, or is it about the government? We are rushing the students to high level maths before they have even had a chance to master basic arithmetic and in the process turn them off from math through overexposure. Too much emphasis on standardized tests creates that type of atmosphere. We need to get back to the idea of a well rounded education that worked 40 years ago, when students became proficient in all areas without having to be overexposed to one.

Students are not numbers or statistics, they are people with individual personalities, but unfortunately are viewed are as numbers and statistics through standardized testing, citizens, and government leaders. There are so many ideas, facts and wisdom we teach those children that will never be measured by a number on a standardized test..

d

June 26th, 2011
10:58 am

@oldtimer I’ll have to be honest, I’m neither math nor science, I just prepare our future citizens for the world they’ll be living in. That being said, if we had been receiving our step increases like we should have (and not pay cut after pay cut after pay cut), this wouldn’t be an issue. I could see if I were still in my first 5 years teaching, ok we have the shortage in math and science, but also keeping teachers in classroom after their first five years is a challenge. Why else are we losing about half of our teachers within their first five years in the profession (regardless of their field)?

[...] Will higher pay for math teachers add up to more of them?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)When I first started writing this blog two years ago, we had a discussion about whether hard-to-fill teaching slots in science and math should be paid at higher rate to entice people to the classroom. At the time, a few of you argued that while today's … [...]

teacher&mom

June 26th, 2011
11:15 am

A few more ideas to consider:

How will we KEEP teachers to remain in the profession after the 5-6 year mark? What’s the plan beyond this initial boost in pay?

How do you encourage a recent graduate from college to move to a remote rural area? How many young people, who have not grown up in the community, will be willing to move to Podunk, GA….and remain there for an extended time?

What happens when the physics graduate moves to a rural area and is required to teach ALL high school science subjects? Will they be able to teach Biology, Anatomy, Chemistry, Earth Systems, Geology, Forensic Science, etc? Are they prepared to teach more than subject area? Are they prepared to teach Honor’s/AP courses and Inclusion classes? Will they have the skills to address the entire spectrum of learners….because if they teach in a rural area, they’d better be prepared to meet those challenges.

While an increase in pay is a starting point to attract qualified math and science teachers, someone somewhere needs to begin addressing all the issues that will send the candidates packing after a couple of years……..

atlmom

June 26th, 2011
11:18 am

d: it’s not about experience, it’s about attracting people to the profession. $37k? when I can make at least twice that doing something else? really? Um, that’s still not enough for me to consider that career. That would be a huge pay cut for my family. I made more than that out of grad school over 15 years ago (and was probably leaving money on the table at that time).
So – it’s about supply and demand not about experience. AGAIN. It’s about not being able to attract the best and the brightest. If you don’t have any math teachers, how are you going to get them? Not by incenting them with the lovely work environment. I’ve spoken to teachers and heard what they go thru. who wants that with no pay?

NWGA Teacher

June 26th, 2011
11:18 am

This is discouraging. Many students cannot read well enough to understand CRCT math.

RJ

June 26th, 2011
11:26 am

After being in the classroom for 15 years, I can assure you that money is not going to be the answer. First, the pay increase is not great enough to make a real difference. Once these new teachers get into the classroom, many will leave within 5 years. The issues that plague public schools must be dealt with before the state starts throwing money at the problem. The current attitude toward educators in this country makes the teaching field undesireable. Over the next 5 – 10

RJ

June 26th, 2011
11:29 am

After being in the classroom for 15 years, I can assure you that money is not going to be the answer. First, the pay increase is not great enough to make a real difference. Once these new teachers get into the classroom, many will leave within 5 years. The issues that plague public schools must be dealt with before the state starts throwing money at the problem. The current attitude toward educators in this country makes the teaching field undesireable. Over the next 5 – 10 years I believe we will see huge shortages in all subjects.

RJ

June 26th, 2011
11:34 am

@rob, you are dead on! Great post.

William Casey

June 26th, 2011
11:39 am

My son, currently a senior at Ga. Southern doing dual degrees in mathematics and philosophy (3.6 GPA), is home visiting for the weekend. He works for GSU tutoring freshmen in math. I just asked him at what STARTING salary would he consider teaching in high school? His response was $80,000. He quickly added: “And Dad, I’d think about it hard even then because there is so little opportunity for advancement.” This is especially sad because he was raised in a very pro-teaching household and is not an especially materialistic young man.

Lee

June 26th, 2011
11:49 am

“The teacher will keep that same rate of pay for the next five years, provided he or she still teaches math or science and the incentive is funded annually by lawmakers.

The devil is always in the details.

David Sims

June 26th, 2011
12:03 pm

Make it pay enough, and I might offer to teach math in any county having 90% (or more) white residents. But only if I don’t have to play any stupid paperwork-certification games. I’ll prove that I can teach math to any students I have. I won’t waste my time with red tape. If that isn’t good enough, then your government can look elsewhere.

Lee

June 26th, 2011
12:05 pm

BTW, That $1400 “bonus” spread over twelve months after taxes equates to about $75 / month. Not much of an incentive.

The reality is that science and math majors have more options in fields that are far better paying that teaching. You can go here for the annual salaries of various professions for the Atlanta area:

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_12060.htm

Burroughston Broch

June 26th, 2011
12:11 pm

A mathematics or science graduate (not an education graduate in “the art of teaching mathematics”) has much better career prospects than teaching in the public schools. Most follow the better career prospects. That’s because they are on average more intelligent than education graduates.

In the Middle

June 26th, 2011
12:51 pm

@William Casey: your son can move to the Northeast, where teachers are very well compensated. This incentive is insulting to teachers who are not getting step increases and are getting more furlough days. Since when do we have a shortage of middle school math/science teachers in the metro area? I can name 10 who can’t find a job (hmmm Gwinnett laid of many in the “infamous” 140 non-renewed…). I can see needing to attract a different group for HS math and science, but middle school is not the same level of difficulty.

teacher&mom

June 26th, 2011
1:37 pm

I was recently told the incentive pay only applies to new hires since 2008. Teachers hired for the 2011 school year aren’t eligible…..at least that is what we were told at a district meeting.

Mike Honcho

June 26th, 2011
1:53 pm

I agree with RJ and the others. The shortage of math and science teachers is only going to increase. I doubt $50 a month is going to do the trick.

HS English Teacher

June 26th, 2011
2:21 pm

These new hires may know their math and science, but can they teach?? And isn’t that the essential question?

another comment

June 26th, 2011
2:32 pm

Someone who goes a math and science route would want to start at least 60K and got to over 100K without having to be an administrator/coach.

Another NBCT teacher here

June 26th, 2011
3:13 pm

Don’t get excited about this latest news. The state will not honor this, just as they threw the National Board Teachers under the bus. They will just sucker teachers into specializing in math and science, then not pay them the incentive after a year or so goes by. \

Mikey D

June 26th, 2011
3:59 pm

Really insulting to every teacher in the state who happens to not be a newly hired math or science teacher, especially when most of us are still being subjected to multiple unpaid furloughs because “the money just isn’t there….”

Burroughston Broch

June 26th, 2011
4:17 pm

@ HS English Teacher

Can you teach HS mathematics or science? An education degree isn’t worthwhile if you don’t know the subject matter.

It’s all part of the longtime mantra of public school education that only people with education degrees can teach or administer. The focus of the mantra is to provide more jobs for teachers.

d

June 26th, 2011
4:38 pm

@Burroughston, my bachelor’s degree is in field and my masters is in Social Studies education (which meant half of my program was the “teacher” courses and the other half was graduate-level social studies courses (econ, geography, history, and sociology were the areas I took courses in). Just because someone is a math major or science major does not mean that person has the pedagogical knowledge to present that information to students. In order to be certified to teach in Georgia, you have to have the content classes – and for clear-renewable certification, you also have to have the “teacher” classes. The GACE II tests are content knowledge tests.

That being said, under Race to the Top, Georgia can now hire a principal off the street as long as he or she has management experience and a bachelor’s degree. I’ve worked in management in the private sector, and believe me, if someone comes in as a principal under that scenario, he or she is going to have a very tough time succeeding. Dealing with parents, students, teachers, and other staff members is a lot different than your typical business/customer relationship or employer/employee relationship.

[...] Link: Will higher pay for math teachers add up to more of them? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog… [...]

Jerry Eads

June 26th, 2011
5:38 pm

Given the termination of the National Board certification bonus, it may be interesting to see whether additional individuals choose initial mathematics and science certification. I’m sure those who are arleady headed toward one or both of those certificates will be quite pleased, but it may be that they will be skeptical of its permanence. If this incentive strategy does lead to an increase in mathematics and science certified teachers, then the schools will have a larger pool to choose from and teacher quality in those areas should go up. However, should there come a time when there is a surplus of mathematics and science teachers, it seems reasonable to assume that the bonus would be removed. Unlike for the National Board certified teachers, by that time the change in pay structure will likely have stabilized for most of the benefiting math and science teachers (because it’s a modification of the pay scale and not a straightforward incentive) and the removal of the incentive will only affect new teachers then being certified for the first time.

The unintended consequences may prove interesting. Morale issues may arise with teachers in other areas and could even lead to “shortages” or quality issues in some of them. It did not appear that there was a great deal of analysis concerning whether the pay incentive might actually have its intended effect or whether there might be troublesome consequences.

Errol Davis, outgoing university system chancellor and new APS interim superintendent, as you might hope and expect would seem to be a rather astute thinker. In today’s AJC print edition interview, Davis observed that college’s job is not to train people for the jobs of today; that job belongs to the technical college system. The job of the university is to prepare people for tomorrow. “Knowledge on the job is fleeting. You can learn job knowledge if you’re smart enough to learn. You can learn enough to be effective at just about any job. But what you can’t learn is how to write, how to comprehend and how to think. My sense is if you understand culture, if you understand politics, if you understand anthropology, you are in a much better position to lead organizations than if you understand a narrow discipline.”

Perhaps that same line of reasoning is appropriate for the public schools. Job market analyses show that we have scientists and engineers coming out of our ears in the workplace; there are far, far, far more college graduates in these areas than there are jobs. It’s may be that an appropriate in-depth policy analysis would suggest that rather than creating a surplus of mathematics and science teachers perhaps we might better focus on early grade reading and communications skills – which seem to be what are one of the root causes of the dropout problem.

teacher&mom

June 26th, 2011
5:38 pm

“That’s because they are on average more intelligent than education graduates.”

And that my fellow bloggers is a beautiful example of circular reasoning….

high school teacher

June 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

Let’s go back to service cancellable loans – after five years in the teaching profession, your student loans are forgiven. If you want to limit it to science and math, whatever.

HS English Teacher

June 26th, 2011
5:49 pm

I totally agree with you on the questionable value of many education courses. My major is in my subject area. Some of my education classes gave me some worthwhile help. But the best teachers have an inborn talent and passion that causes them to care deeply about students. My point is that just majoring in a certain subject–be it math, science, or education–does not make one a teacher.

Fericita

June 26th, 2011
7:32 pm

Will high pay for math teachers add up to more of them?

No, not if merit pay is here to stay. Then, not only with this one-time incentive pay go out the window, but teachers will be responsible for the raw material (the students) that they are given. The CRCT cut scores have been lowered so much that students only need to get 45% correct in order to pass the math section. Math teachers are already very frustrated to find kids working several grade levels behind. It will be even worse when merit pay places all of the financial blame and burden on the teacher.

Burroughston Broch

June 26th, 2011
7:47 pm

@ d

And just because a person graduates with a BSEd from a college or university with an inadequate education in their field doesn’t make them a Jedi Knight in a high school.

The universities and college mathematics education programs seem to be long on education courses and short on mathematics. Let’s take UGA for example. A BSEd graduate with a focus on mathematics education must have completed at least eight 3 hour regular mathematics courses and nine 3 hour “special” mathematics courses taught within the college of education only to education majors. They only admit 25 per semester into the program but may admit you provided that you keep a 2.75GPA and make at least a C in the mathematics and education courses.

When I attended university in the 1960s I had more mathematics than this degree program by the end of my sophomore year. And to think that the public schools are trying to teach calculus and differential equations in HS with teachers who have been educated like this.

atlmom

June 26th, 2011
8:31 pm

Mikey d: how is it insulting? it is about laws of supply and demand. Or did you never learn economics? If you have a shortage of something – you need to pay more. As far as I can see, there are no shortage of english teachers. or social studies teachers. or music teachers.
But there are shortages of math and science teachers. so in order to get more math or science teachers, you need to pay them more. unless and until you think people should be forced to teach, that’s the only way you’re going to get more of these kinds of teachers.
But $37k is hardly the way to go about it.
BTW, my teacher in high school who taught us calculus, had a phD.

WOW – after FIVE YEARS you think loans should be totally forgiven? WOW. that’s not that long. shouldn’t it depend on how much the loan is for?

Another NBCT teacher here

June 26th, 2011
9:14 pm

atlmom, obiviously you don’t know how this state reasons. When the state didn’t want to pay the National Board teachers their incentives anymore, they said, “Having this certification/money doesn’t necessarily make you a better teacher.” The same thing will happen to the math and science teachers, mark my words. And yes, it is an insult to the teachers who already have been giving their all in math, science, social studies, reading, and the arts. Georgia does not respect teachers, and doesn’t want to pay them. End of story.

d

June 26th, 2011
9:26 pm

@atlmom There may be a shortage of math and science teachers, but even worse, there is a shortage of teachers who want to go to places in South Georgia….. that money would have been better spent giving incentives to get people to travel outside of Atlanta to the rest of the state. Why should I go teach in, say Jeff Davis County, when, regardless of my field, I can make more teaching in a system in metro Atlanta. I don’t know anything about the pay in Jeff Davis, nor the hiring situation, I just picked them because I know that county name in south Georgia….. but that being said, there are plenty of systems that are just as in need of teachers in every field and we could have easily used that money to staff those schools and make their wages more competitive and attractive to young teachers.

doh

June 26th, 2011
9:59 pm

Ok, which courthouse do I go to in order to sue the state. You can’t pay one teacher more money because they teach a different subject. That’s crazy. I have certifications in all four major subjects, yet I was told to teach Social Studies by my district, and I had no choice in wanting to teach math or science, and now I get paid less. It used to be that elementary teachers got paid less than secondary teachers, looks like I have to get my attorney.

Science Guy

June 26th, 2011
10:16 pm

Hmmm…I hope these new recruits will understand that they will be walking into classrooms built for 28 students and on that first day they will find 35. Back to 1980 we go!!

Burroughston Broch

June 26th, 2011
10:48 pm

@ teacher&mom

Why don’t you complete the circle for the rest of us?

middleschoolteacher

June 26th, 2011
11:04 pm

No raises of any sort for the last three years with less money due to furlough days is the reality for most teachers in Georgia. However, there is money to pay unproven teachers a bonus. Explain that, please!

Progressive Humanist

June 27th, 2011
12:02 am

It makes perfect sense to pay math and science teachers more if the supply of them is low, which it is. But I would also recommend having English teachers teach fewer classes. Other subject areas can test knowledge with multiple choice tests (which contrary to conventional wisdom can indeed test higher order thinking) and can quickly scan for the right answers. English teachers, if they are doing their jobs well, should be assigning lots of writing, which means reading a great deal of student papers in their entirety, a very difficult thing to do when you have 150-175 students every day, particularly if the papers are written at very basic levels and require a great deal of feedback.

This is one of the reasons that students’ literacy skills are so poor (and this affects learning in all subject areas). English teachers simply don’t have the time to assess 150+ full length papers a week in addition to reading tests, vocabulary, planning, meetings, etc. So what happens? They don’t assign writing and just test whether students remember elements of the literature via multiple choice and short answer tests, which is definitely the least relevant aspect of their jobs. It’s not important what the kids remember about literature because they will surely forget it. What’s important is that they learn to process linguistic information with ever increasing sophistication, and this is not happening.

So pay math and science teachers more, certainly, and have English teachers teach fewer classes but require them to assign and grade students’ writing every week. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

atlmom

June 27th, 2011
4:01 am

d: hmmm…so you’re saying that teachers in Atlanta shouldn’t get more if there is a shortage of certain types (i.e., math and science) but ones in other counties – if there’s a shortage – should get paid more? where is *that* logic?
You are correct – where there is a shortage, higher pay might help. but again – $37k is hardly enough to get someone like me to leave the workforce and want to start teaching. it’s not going to attract anyone with a math/science degree to teaching.

d

June 27th, 2011
5:47 am

I’m saying for the same amount of money, if the state was truly interested in the best interest of all students, it should have been first directed at getting highly qualified teachers in hard-to-staff schools/districts before it focused on STEM. Not every student is going into STEM, but there are students all over this state who would benefit more from having teachers come into their areas from Atlanta. It is the same idea, supply of teachers is low in those areas so increase the pay to give an incentive for more teachers to go there. Also, if $37K won’t get you to leave the workforce to start teaching, is $42K going to make that much of a difference? I highly doubt it. It may make a difference for someone already committed to going into the field to choose one area of the state where the need is greater over another where supply is plenty.

Futureteacher?

June 27th, 2011
5:48 am

How will this affect the new “merit pay” system that is starting soon?

UGA Engineer

June 27th, 2011
7:13 am

You can’t live on $40,000. That’s just shy of poverty in my opinion. I think I’ll just keep practicing engineering in this terrible economy. It hasn’t gotten THAT bad. I think when they look at the numbers later, they’ll see that it had a negligible effect. I’ll just teach my kids math and science in the future if I have to.

Doris M

June 27th, 2011
7:42 am

Everything is now so complicated. When I was in school some 40 years ago, my teachers were dedicated to the job of teaching me. They weren’t the smartest by any means but they had energy and enthusiasm. They also recognized that every student will not master every subject. We are all individuals and have different strengths. Education should be a balanced enterprise with critical thinking as a main goal. As far as paying math and science teacher more, it sounds good but will not provide much of an incentive. An extra $75 per month means nothing especially after taxes. The Georgia legislature will eventually take it away just as they did with the extra pay for the National Board Certified teachers. If I ran a school system, all children would take basic courses from first through eighth grades after which they would enter into specialized schools according to their abilities and interests.

teacher&mom

June 27th, 2011
7:57 am

I won’t assume to complete the circle because I’m open to other ideas. I don’t take assume that every education major is inferior and somehow genetically deficient because they chose education as a major.

At my old alma mater, I compared a Chemistry Ed major to a Chemistry major. The chemistry major does take more Chemistry courses but their first two years are identical and their junior year plan of study is very, very similar. The difference in courses is primarily their senior year. The Chem major has five additional 4000 level courses. The Chem educ. major is sitting in a few more Psych courses and Educ. courses. Are those courses irrelevant to teaching? I guess that depends on your perspective. If you’ve never stood in front of a classroom and taught students with Aspberger’s, ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Anorexia, OCD, Tourette’s, etc. Then you may find those classes foolish. If you never have to worry about students who’ve been sexually abused, or experiment with to alcohol/drugs, those courses will probably be a waste of your time. If you’ve never taken a child development or pedagogy course, you probably won’t understand why the teenagers sitting in your classroom are struggling with a concept. Hint: it may have something to do with appropriate scaffolding, academic support, mental models, etc.

Of course, while the Chem major is sitting in the 4000 level courses, the educ. major is out in the schools completing their student teaching. Student teaching is a critical component of any teacher prep. program. Do we eliminate student teaching in favor of the 4000 level courses? Education majors currently graduate with the same number of credit hours as everyone else. One alternative is to require additional credit hours for education majors. If we take that route, how do we justify requiring an education major take more credit hours knowing their starting pay will be under 35K? Will that make the the degree more or less attractive to future candidates?

Finland requires all teachers to complete an undergraduate degree and then a master’s degree in education. I think this is a good idea. This would mean a teaching force where master’s degrees are the norm….and a higher pay rate from the starting gate. Yet, how often on this blog have teachers had to defend the importance of a master’s degree?

The argument, “That’s because they are on average more intelligent than education graduates.” is a blanket statement that is perpetuated by those who refuse to look deep into the issue and consider all sides. It provides a “justification” for the working conditions and salary scale for teachers.

I doubt my thoughts will in any way change or shift your perspective, but, they may give others something to consider. We could all spend a little more time considering other perspectives….don’t ya’ think? :)

teacher&mom

June 27th, 2011
8:23 am

One more thing…..let’s pretend for a moment….I’m the valedictorian of my graduating class. I’m a math genius. My college advisor suggests I consider going into education.

I do a little research….

I look at the salary scale and see that with a 4 year degree my highest level of earnings will be $50,285 with 21+ years experience. That’s around $265/day (divide the salary by 190) and no hope of a pay raise for the last 9 years of employment. I may or may not get a county supplement. The teachers in my old high school were getting a 5% supplement before the recession. No one knows if the supplement will ever return.

Then I read things like this: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/06/25/number-of-the-week-u-s-teachers-hours-among-worlds-longest/?mod=wsj_share_twitter

If I’m a female, I won’t get a paid maternity leave.

My retirement will be 60% of my highest salary level. Granted everyone’s 401K has taken a brutal hit and many retired individuals have found themselves back in the workforce, but I’m a young and smart. I don’t see myself retiring with only 30K a year.

If money is my main objective, then I’m probably not going to teach. Not to mention, the quiet disappointment I will endure when I tell my friends and family I’ve decided to be a teacher.