CEO: Math and science are the ticket to good jobs and to America’s prosperity

Eric Spiegel is the U.S. CEO of Siemens Corporation, a global energy and engineering company with operations in 190 countries. This piece runs Monday in the AJC Opinion pages;

By Eric Spiegel

Some of America’s most promising students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) recently competed in the nation’s premier math and science competition at Georgia Tech. Every year, our company hosts the competition to support the best and brightest high school students – the next great innovators.

They aren’t the ones I worry about. As the CEO of a company that employs more than 60,000 employees in all 50 states, I’m much more concerned with those who shudder at the thought of algebra or chemistry; those who don’t realize that in the new economy, even in fields you wouldn’t expect, STEM proficiency is essential.

Over the past decade, STEM job openings grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs. STEM workers are expected to earn, on average, 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. Even among workers with a high school diploma or less, those with STEM proficiency will earn, on average, 36 percent more than those without it. Last year, when the unemployment rate reached 10 percent, STEM unemployment remained at 5.3 percent.

At our company, we employ thousands of scientists and engineers. But our salespeople also need to have enough of a technical background to discuss the merits of our products with expertise. Our marketers need to be fluent in the language of medicine, energy, and high-tech manufacturing. None of these jobs are what you would typically think of as STEM-fields, yet today, all of them require a STEM background.

But STEM isn’t just a ticket to a good job. It’s also a ticket back to the kind of prosperity that used to define the American economy.

In a global economy where capital flows freely across borders, businesses are going to invest where the talent is. That’s a problem in the U.S. – where a recent Manpower survey found that 52 percent of employers are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill key jobs that require advanced science and math skills. A recent Harvard study found that poor math skills could cost the U.S. economy $75 trillion over the next 80 years.

Our company has more than 3,000 U.S. job openings right now-and yet, only 10 percent of applicants pass the series of tests we put potential employees through to fill these jobs. For the first time, we’ve had to hire recruiters to help fill them. We are facing a skills gap, a failure to develop a workforce that can meet the needs of the new job market.

There are several ways we can confront this problem. One, of course, is to reform our education system to emphasize and improve STEM education. Many of the primary problems-from the shortage of qualified science teachers to a lack of advanced science classes in low income and rural areas-are entirely solvable. We need a national commitment to flexibility and innovation in classrooms, as well as scholarships and other incentives to produce a new generation of STEM teachers.

Another is for employers to take more responsibility in developing the workforce of the future. Each year, our company spends about $50 million in the U.S. on job training. In North Carolina, for example, we are partnering with Central Piedmont Community College to help local students develop the technical skills necessary to work in the new digital manufacturing environment.

But I believe there is another, perhaps more important route that we, as a nation-as parents-can take right now.

We need to take the dread out of math and science homework-for students AND parents. There are terrific tools, including innovative online sites, which can help all of us brush up on STEM skills while helping our children. Improving these scores is not simply the responsibility of our schools or teachers-it’s up to all of us.

Take Seth and Louise Pollack. From the second grade on they encouraged Ben’s interest in science, from helping him build the requisite solar system model in their garage, to listening as he practiced his presentations, and encouraging him to pursue independent research. With his parents’ support, Ben’s enthusiasm for problem-solving culminated in his second-place finish in the team category of the 2005 Siemens Competition, with a project on geographically-isolated fruit flies that demonstrated a rare case of incipient speciation (forming two species from one). Now that’s what I call “outside-the-box” thinking!

We need more parents to actively encourage their children’s success in STEM. Today, Ben is an Emerging Technologies and Metrics Specialist on our Health Care communications team, applying his analytical and research skills to help us better serve our customers.

Like the Pollacks, we need to instill the value of science, math, and technology in our kids in their earliest years. It doesn’t matter if they are going to be engineers or not. It doesn’t even matter if they plan to go to college or not. Their future-and ours-depends on their ability to master a skill set they’ll need in the jobs of the future.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

50 comments Add your comment

catlady

December 5th, 2011
6:55 am

Mr. Speigel is correct–we need more STEM-savy folks. However, when a third or more of students are not proficient in reading and basic arithmetic, we have a more pressing problem than lack of advanced science/math courses at the high school!

catlady

December 5th, 2011
6:56 am

Dang! At least I could have spelled his name right!

catlady

December 5th, 2011
7:02 am

By the way, Ms. Downey, could you ask Mr. Davis, superintendent of APS, why he hasn’t put those on-leave-being-paid teachers and administrators to work one on one or in small groups with the kids who are so far behind? 130 (or howevermany) certified teachers working full-bore for 8 hours a day doing one on one pulls could accomplish a lot! There is NO REASON they should be drawing a salary and not contributing one whit to the school system! Don’t let them test, BUT PUT THEM TO WORK TEACHING!

Maureen Downey

December 5th, 2011
7:16 am

@catlady, He took a stand that these educators would not be in back in APS classrooms.
And he’s sticking to it.
Maureen

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
8:38 am

Is Mr Spiegel talking about science and math and engineering and technology as bodies of knowledge and disciplines that are students should master to provide them with a solid foundation for whatever happens in the future?

Or is he talking about the STEM that insists that math and science are merely social constructs and uses STEM to build political support for general interdisciplinary problem solving skills using unscripted real life situations for students to respond to?

There is a difference and given Siemens presence in the learning tasks and 21st century skills movement that is quite the boondoggle for the designated businesses I suspect I know the answer.

I thought I would point out the difference though as I am tired of reading administrators trumpeting their push for STEM the non-cognitive, frustrating, John Deweyan inquiry learning activity as they attend conferences nationally and then getting a promotion to be a principal in a metro Atlanta high achieving school and ditching the acronym to pretend it means they promote math and science as traditionally understood.

Education-for the connected it means a lifetime of living well off of your taxes regardless of the economy. And pushing ideas that are a death knell to future prosperity. Crony capitalism-using the power and connections to govt to create and maintain revenue opportunities.

Aristocracy of pull.

another comment

December 5th, 2011
11:56 am

I spent Saturday afternoon, trying to convince my 18 year old maid, who has a 2 year old child that she should re-enter high school in January. As part of this conversation she told me that she believes that she was failing Math 1 and Biology her Freshman year. She completed this year, but did not receive credit for these classes. She told me she never took any ESOL classes. She was a member of this experimental Class of 2012 with the Math 1,2,3. I told her that even my high performing daughter struggled with it. Here she has parents that don’t speak English.

She had the baby in the fall of her Sophomore year and then just gave up because the Math and Biology were too hard. No one at the school had given her any encouragement. The Cobb county schools like Campbell do not have any daycare, in them.

Her high school class does not graduate until June 2012. So I told her, that the high school had to take her back, even though she had turned 18 in July. Then she had the right to continue until she was 20. I also informed her that Math Support now counts for credits as well. I also told her that they were changing away from Math 1, 2, 3. I also informed her that Campbell did not make AYP and if her Family qualified for free lunch. Then she would be entitleted to free tutoring, since it is a Title 1 school.

Then the issue of who was going to watch the 2 year old came up. She said her mother was going to watch her 16 year old sister’s 2 month old baby. So she could go back to school. I told her her mother could watch her son as well. After all she had two children, they both got pregnant at 16. She had failed both Children. She said but I am 18. I said I don’t care, If I was your mother I would feel I would have failed my job as a mother if your got pregnant, especially if a second daughter got pregnant at 16. I told her it was her mother’s responsibility to watch both daughter’s babies while they finished high school. This is after she had told me that her mother only was planning on watch her sister’s infant and going out with the mother’s girl friend’s during the week. The husband works doing Electrical work. The girls mother is like 50 years old. I was like that is crap, she can take care of both kids. She abdacated her parental responsibilty with you, either she didn’t get you on Birth control, didn’t take you for and Abortion, promote adoption; so now she can help you take care of the boy until you get your diploma. ( The mother was standing around the corner as I bluntly said all this, I I strongly suspect she understands more English then she lets on, but the truth needs to be told).

By the end of the day, the girl told me that she was pretty sure that she was going to re-enroll in school in school in January. I told her that I was more than willing to go with her and her mother, as a friend so no one would try to tell them that she couldn’t. But she was allowed to attend until she was 20, but she needs to get in before her class graduates. I also told her my daughter can help her with math, and math is not that hard.

The biggest thing i told her is do you want to clean other peoples houses for the rest of your life? What do you want to say when your son asks why you did not graduate from high school ?

@ Another Comment

December 5th, 2011
12:13 pm

Rather than delve into the quagmire of kids having kids, I just wanted to deal with your comment about the state “changing away from Math 1,2,3.” I’ve read copies of what the state plans to do. Don’t be fooled. It’s window dressing. They’re going to rename the courses and combine like topics into blocks within each course, but… it’s still the same crappy curriculum. She may have an easier time with it, but it certainly won’t prepare her for a STEM career (the main point of this article).

Really amazed

December 5th, 2011
12:21 pm

@another comment, good for you!!! You are the only one truly helping this girl.

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
12:51 pm

@another comment-

You are right. Only the names are changing for PR purposes. I was at a high powered breakfast in Buckhead a few weeks ago and the parents were talking about how good it was that the integrated math was being eliminated.

Continuation of the great con job that is Ga education.

East Cobb Parent

December 5th, 2011
1:04 pm

I agree the change, mainly in name, to the HS math is not all that is needed. When are they going to address the lack of memorization of basic math facts in ES? Children need a solid math foundation prior to leaving ES. The State needs to review math in all grades and make changes to establish a solid math foundation.

@ Another Comment

December 5th, 2011
1:08 pm

To Attentive Parent:
Agreed. You should see the parents heads bobbing up and down as they swallow this PR from the state that Math 1,2,3 is being changed. What gullible dolts. And if that wasn’t bad enough, my 7th grader just informed me that Lattice BS problems were represented on the last ITBS test. Truly, the dumbing down of American school children is in full force. People should see the movie IDIOCRACY, because that is where we are headed.

Veteran teacher, 2

December 5th, 2011
1:33 pm

The State BOE is supposed to vote on the new order of the HS math curriculum this week. The actual topics are supposed to be released just before the vote. I will be interested to see if the heads are still bobbing up and down when those who have been cheering for two months.

Wait until they see all the Geometry in “Coordinate Algebra” and all the algebra, including everything about quadratic equations in “Analytic Geometry.” Euclidian Geometry is still largely in the middle school curriculum, and most of the 8th grade algebra shifts to HS.

There is waaaaaay more in the HS curriculum than could reasonably be covered, much less mastered, in each year. The first two years are especially packed. The fourth year includes everything about Trigonometry and even has an extensive study of vectors.

Yep, none of the problems that everyone consistently talks about are addressed with the “new” curriculum. Too much material moving too fast, and one size fits all are still with us.

If those that are cheering are content with a change of title, you will get the reward you so richly deserve!

@ Veteran Teacher, 2

December 5th, 2011
1:44 pm

Agreed. People are about to get a rude awakening. I’m very disappointed in the lack of progress from Barge. I’ve kept up with the shell game the state is playing. You mention the mixing of topics. One of my biggest pet peeves is the LACK of some important math skills — i.e., geometric proofs. Wonder why the “compelling and complete” AJC doesn’t cover the travesty that continues.

On a personal note, I decided long ago to teach my kids math in the afternoon the way I was taught. It served me well at Georgia Tech and they are doing great on NATIONALLY normed tests, in spite of this crappy curriculum.

Beverly Fraud

December 5th, 2011
2:05 pm

Why not ask Mr. Davis why they can’t grade papers, or other mundane duties, so that teachers could focus on TEACHING?

Or would that be “beneath” their highly exalted status?

AJinCobb

December 5th, 2011
2:53 pm

If only we could stop having simultaneous vehement but contradictory criticisms of the darned math curriculum.

“@ Another comment” writes “Truly, the dumbing down of American school children is in full force.”

“Veteran Teacher, 2″ writes “There is waaaaaay more in the HS curriculum than could reasonably be covered, much less mastered, in each year.”

It doesn’t seem plausible that the curriculum could be BOTH dumbed down and over-ambitious – although I’m half-expecting responses along the lines that the elementary curriculum is dumbed down while the high school curriculum is over-ambitious.

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
3:13 pm

Of course it does AJ. The over-ambitious content topics are not taught. They are used instead to create the math learning tasks and activities. Performing those tasks and activities are where the term “performance” comes from. It’s not performance as in high as is implied. Rather engaging in the behavior is assumed to be proof that learning has occurred.

If that assumption is invalid or the behavior constitutes more affective learning than cognitive as is the case with many tasks you get a kid who knows little. When the parent says the child has few math skills and only a cursory knowledge and some of that is false, the duplicitous admins and ed profs point to the content standards and talk about hor rigorous they are.

Fordham’s ranking is of little consequence when what they review is not what gets implemented in the classroom.

And please don’t keep mentioning your amazing child who seems a bit apocryphal. Even if he or she has had a wonderful time due to their exceptional intelligence, they are the exception and not the rule. We need a curriculum that still works well for the nonexceptional.

no mas

December 5th, 2011
3:20 pm

So what am I supposed to do with my two Liberal Artsy kids? Dang.

East Cobb Parent

December 5th, 2011
3:24 pm

@ AJinCobb, I hope you understand more of the math debacle than your flippant reply implies, if not then you are part of the problem. When so many topics are to be taught there is not time for mastery, simply put enough in short term to pass the test. If you didn’t really learn the first part then you sure as heck will not understand the second part – get out of the way the snowball is coming. ES is busy calling math ‘Algebra’ without it being so. Parents would figure it out the farce if they would ever pay attention, get off the iphone, and look beyond the title of the worksheet. ES focuses on the process and not the answer. If you get all the steps to the lattice multiplication problem, but the wrong answer or well, you’ll still receive a 2 or 3 in the category on the report card. Little Johnny moved to MS and still can’t convert a fraction to a percentage because he is too busy trying to put everything in the lattice blocks and getting the wrong answer.

William Casey

December 5th, 2011
3:33 pm

I am so pleased that my son has completed his junior year in a dual degree program in math and philosophy. The math will make him enployable. The philosophy/logic will enable him to understand the world and other people. One can obtain a fine education in Georgia public schools and universities.

William Casey

December 5th, 2011
3:44 pm

I know very little about the new math curriculum, having retired from teaching history in ‘06 and with my son graduating from high school in ‘09′ His program seemed very similar to what I did forty years ago. This new approach seems like an excuse to throw all the kids into the same math classes and pretend that it’s rigorous. Is my assumption true?

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
4:15 pm

Yes and it will corrupt higher ed as well. Under the terms of Common Core and Race to the Top the USG, like most other state university systems agreed in writing that they would no longer place graduates under the new Common Core standards into remedial courses.

Now your son has a background in logic. If Common Core was in fact more rigorous and academically oriented why would you need to obligate the universities in advance to no longer place the graduates into remedial courses. Unfortunately you wouldn’t. You do that if the goal is to offer paper credentials not backed up by genuine knowledge and skills.

William Casey

December 5th, 2011
4:51 pm

@Attentive Parent: Alas, I saw a good bit of sliding toward mediocrity (or worse) while trying to “look good” during my 31 years as an educator.

Scott

December 5th, 2011
5:16 pm

@William Casey

The new GPS math curriculum attempts to foster a deeper understanding of math rather than the traditional overlapping, review-centric, “mile wide and inch deep” approach. Putting aside the controversy of the “integrated” organization of topics which is now becoming optional, it is a very complete curriculum that would serve Georgia students well and looks great on paper but is hindered by a few notable shortcomings:

1. Lack of built-in review and a total lack of local accountability means that students get passed along to new grade levels despite the lack of mastery, with no real opportunity to recover and catch up to what the curriculum expects at each subsequent grade level. School systems are happy to ignore these deficits until high school. The state board does nothing about this issue. When asked, they say “the local systems should ensure that students understand before passing them to the next grade.”

2. Learning tasks, many of which were written by ivory tower academic types to support the new curriculum, are written for well-motivated, on-level students with excellent reading comprehension and the ability to follow written directions. Hence they are inappropriate for most public school classrooms.

3. Though the new curriculum has fewer “standards”, each standard has multiple subtopics. As mentioned above, there is too much material to cover in too little time, making the goal of “depth” generally unreachable. Especially given the compounding effects of issues 1 and 2.

4. Many of the most important standards that were formerly high school topics are pushed down to the middle school grades. Thanks to issues 1 and 3, there is very little mastery of these topics. So in a very real sense, today’s math students know *less* than the students of 5-10 years ago. Which, I can say from experience, is a very scary idea.

Scott

December 5th, 2011
5:28 pm

@Attentive Parent

“university systems agreed in writing that they would no longer place graduates under the new Common Core standards into remedial courses”

My understanding is that all remediation will soon be directed to the state’s technical colleges. Students unable to pass entrance exams will have to go there to prepare for college. “Learning support” classes already make up a large portion of the general ed offerings at most technical colleges.

Veteran teacher, 2

December 5th, 2011
5:54 pm

Good one Scott! Well thought out and well written. The HS curriculum assumes 100% mastery of 100% of the material of 100% of the previous classes. The tasks assume that the students will enthusiastically and quickly answer each question with a wide breadth of erudite mathematical reasoning and understanding. The EOCT tests assume that each student has given 100% of their effort toward mastering 100% of the material in that class and each previous class.

In other words, a Twilight Zone Dream World created by people who assume that a curriculum is simply words on a page.

Come to think of it, why is any grade other than 100% accepted for either the class or the EOCT? That would be a far closer read to the reality of the situation!

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
6:21 pm

Scott-

I really do not think that is true on the remediation. What I have seen is that the community colleges will be more vocational rather than offering academic coursework. Again this is not a Georgia provision. In many ways you have a nationalization of what is to occur in both K-12 classrooms and higher ed as well.

This is not a discussion about SACS and AdvancEd but the accreditation agencies are also driving this deemphasis on cognitive, transmission of knowledge coursework in both K-12 and colleges and universities. Apparently we are going back to the idea from the French Revolution that an academic emphasis can never create equitable results so it is academics that must go.

When the motto talks about all students can learn, that’s a tipoff we are talking either behavioral expectations or an emphasis on students’ values, attitudes, and beliefs. Plus there is a lot of collaborative problem solving and task work going on. When you examine the definition of all can learn, you discover the knowledge and skills of any member of the group is being attributed to all. That assumption will really create a problem once you hire someone who has been a weak member of the team with little knowledge or skills of their own.

Prof

December 5th, 2011
7:32 pm

@ Attentive Parent, 4:15 pm.:” If Common Core was in fact more rigorous and academically oriented why would you need to obligate the universities in advance to no longer place the graduates into remedial courses. Unfortunately you wouldn’t. You do that if the goal is to offer paper credentials not backed up by genuine knowledge and skills.”

Or you do that because you don’t want to spend scarce funds on college remedial classes to teach the students what they should have learned in K-12. If the students really haven’t learned the Common Core, let them flunk out of college.

“French Revolution”? Do you mean, guillotine “academics”?

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Dekalbite

December 5th, 2011
8:46 pm

I couldn’t agree more with Spiegel. STEM skills are driving the world’s economy – due in large part to the scarcity of resources proportional to the excess of human beings on this planet.

Attentive Parent

December 5th, 2011
9:02 pm

Prof-

Tell Lynne Weisenbach you are being a good prof and pushing the party line and keeping your eligibility for tenure, promotion, etc.

Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals. I hope you are not a humanities prof.

Where precisely is there an excess of human beings on the planet, Dekalbite? Apart from the US most of the industrial world is below replacement rates.

Maybe you make your living in an area where knowledge and marketable skills do not matter.

“STEM skills are driving the world’s economy”. Really? In what way? What’s a STEM skill?

I can just see the CV now. “I am a generic problem solver. If you employ five of us, in the aggregate we have about one solid individual’s worth of knowledge and skills. What? That’s unsustainable if you care about the bottom line. No Mr Businessman. Your enterprise exists to provide employment and training, not to provide goods and services for consumers.”

Prof

December 5th, 2011
9:43 pm

@ Attentive Parent. I really don’t get your beef. But then I don’t get your point about the “second [meaning of ] STEM” that you set forth so contemptuously in your 8:38 am post.

STEM is a generally recognized acronym for fields in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Pretty straightforward.

What exactly is your problem here? Obfuscating syntax doesn’t help.

Lee

December 5th, 2011
11:48 pm

Just a quick perusal of Siemens job page currently shows 1800 jobs in the US. Of those, about 34% are in fields other than STEM such as Accounting, Admin, Customer Service, etc.

They have 461 openings listed in the engineering field. A company of Siemens stature and reputation should have no problem filling those jobes. Where they probably have trouble is filling the 225 Field Service reps and the 116 manufacturing jobs.

Those [field service / manuf] jobs are becoming increasingly complex. Back in the 70’s, manufacturing was controlled by pushbuttons, levers, and electro-mechanical controls. Now, those processes are controlled by programmable logic controllers and computers. If you graduate from high school but are performing on a 5th grade level, you’re not getting past the guard shack at a company like Siemens (well, except with a mop and broom in hand).

There are companies who have begun partnering with Technical Schools to encourage more welders, pipefitters, Instrument & Controls technicians, etc, etc. These are good paying jobs that are very satisfying and will be in demand.

God Bless the Teacher!

December 6th, 2011
7:04 am

@Prof (7:32) – “let them flunk out of college”

Why even accept a student who the college has deemed needs remedial classes? Students need to be held accountable for prerequisite content mastery as much as K-12 folks. If a student doesn’t score high enough on entrance exams, then they should not be accepted by the college. Granted, colleges are making good money off of students who are taking classes that don’t count toward degree credit. And the college bookstores…well, there’s another scam. Think about all of the savings colleges could experience if they could reduce/eliminate staff required to remediate students. Think of all the extra space freed up on campus in classroom buildings and dorms. Think of all of the HOPE money that would be available for students who can make it from the start that is currently being given to college flunkies. Finally, if high school students knew that college remediation wasn’t an option, it may actually motivate some of them to try a little harder in high school. They know which colleges are easier and that will accept them no matter what their high school transcript and college entrance exams say. Reminds me of the predatory lending practices in the recent mortgage debacle. Could be that K-12 isn’t the culprit in the STEM worker shortage. Maybe the 13+ folks could do more to partner with K-12 folks (and not just the advanced kids) to promote STEM field and majors. How many profs at your college mentor underserved students in the local public schools?

William Casey

December 6th, 2011
9:47 am

Thanks, Scott.

AJinCobb

December 6th, 2011
10:09 am

@Attentive Parent,

You wrote

“And please don’t keep mentioning your amazing child who seems a bit apocryphal. Even if he or she has had a wonderful time due to their exceptional intelligence, they are the exception and not the rule. We need a curriculum that still works well for the nonexceptional.”

Seriously? You think that if there’s a SINGLE child in the metro area being reasonably well educated in a public high school, they must be “amazing” or “apocryphal” i.e. fictional? Get a grip. You have a great vocabulary but your agenda appears to have overtaken your ability to be rational.

Your post is a great example of what’s lately been irritating the heck out of me on these blogs. Clearly, there are problems in public education in Georgia, and of course the curriculum has to work for the non-exceptional. I can’t imagine any rational person disagreeing with either of those things. However, your and your fellow-thinkers insistence that public education in this state is uniformly a disaster of apocalyptic proportions is quite contrary to what I see around me.

I was a “top student” in my day, and I know perfectly well that my kid has learned in high school a lot of math that I didn’t learn until university, in the 1970s. My child may be bright, but is certainly not apocryphal, nor the smartest in his class, nor does he attend the only public high school in Georgia that has juniors taking AP Calculus. Yes, my kid is at the higher end of the spectrum, but my impression of what he knows is based on my own content knowledge of the discipline. I’m not impressed by your edu-jargon gobbledygook suggesting I’m being misled by false metrics, ambitious curriculum that’s not really being taught, etc. I do know the actual math.

Yes, I’m looking at a sample of one, but seeing as my sample of one is not the only or best student in his class, I deduce that he’s not the only child at his high school learning a reasonable amount of actual math. Seeing as the high school in question is not by any means the most highly regarded in the north metro, it seems reasonable to assume that reasonable numbers of students at all those other well-known public high schools with higher SAT averages are actually learning some content as well.

So, this makes me wonder, how bad is it at the bad schools, or even in the bad classes (there could well be some, for all I know) at the good schools? And what’s the scale of the problem? But all the answers I get are that the problem is universal, and any impression to the contrary is deluded or “apocryphal.”

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Prof

December 6th, 2011
10:49 am

@ God Bless the Teacher! I agree with what you say here and, more to the point, it looks like the Regents do too, given their recent decisions to change the rules on HOPE fellowships, shift remedial courses to the vocational colleges, and tie USG funding to their 6-year graduation rates.

@AJinCobb. When I read the entries on “Get Schooled,” I don’t expect them to give me a balanced view of the entire school system in metro Atlanta, but rather an up-close revelation of what the local school administrations have been trying to push under the rug.

As I recall, you noted on an earlier post that you’ve just moved to the area from out of state. You need to remember the context here: the DeKalb Public Schools have just come out of 3 years or more of court revelations of bribery and corruption in their school administration. The Atlanta Public Schools are coming out of a 10-year period of cheating and corruption that is just coming to light. A great many parents in those systems (and others) are discovering that their K-12 children who have had passing test scores, actually can’t read or do math at grade-level. And a great many of their teachers have helplessly known this all along, but have not been able to prevail.

In other words, you’ve just encountered a whirlwind. If your own school seems fine, count your blessings, stay involved in your PTA, and feel compassion for those parents in the whirlwind.

HS Public Teacher

December 6th, 2011
12:40 pm

@AJinCobb….

I have taught in a variety of high schools in Georgia. I am now in North Fulton.

While yes, the problems are wide spread in education in Georgia, there are areas of sanity. Parts of Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett are examples.

However, the problems are a HUGE deal across the State and run VERY deep. Here is how I see it (my opinion) regarding the problems (not in the sanity areas)…

1. Parents are detached. As long as little Sally moves from one grade to the next, and sometimes it doesn’t even take that much, the parents do nothing. Sometimes, it isn’t because they don’t care but rather because they are holding down two jobs and don’t have the time or energy.

2. Students are kids. They won’t do any work if they don’t have to. They don’t see the long vision of their future. They only see today and today they want to chill and play video games with their friends. As long as their parents say nothing and they show some measure – however small – of progress in school, they really don’t care.

3. The administrators answer to no one. School system administrators create rules without understanding how this impacts student learning. Most of them are “failed” teachers that desperately wanted out of the classroom. They create rules and regulations to make THEIR lives easier. They don’t care about teachers at all. More paperwork required by the State? Make the teachers do it. Need more adult supervision in the halls? Make the teachers do it. A student misbehaves (pulls a knife)? Make the teacher responsible for contacting parents, documenting, discipling kids, etc. These administrators make the mega-big bucks (so do their secretaries/girl friends) to do nothing more than pass the buck.

4. Teachers are overwhelmned. Most sincerely want to help children and want to teach content. However, teachers cannot because of lack of parenting (see number 1), lack of students caring (see number 2), and/or lack of time/admin support (see number 3). So, all of the time and energy is spent doing other things instead of teaching content to students.

In my opinion, Georgia is lacking the checks-and-balances that could be reached if the State law allowed a real teacher union.

[...] when the unemployment rate reached 10 percent, STEM unemployment remained at 5.3 percent.”(more)    Comments (0) Go to main news [...]

AJinCobb

December 6th, 2011
3:12 pm

@HS Public Teacher,

Thanks so much, your reply is crystal clear and plausible.

[...] You can read Spiegel’s piece, with an introduction by Maureen Downey here: CEO: Math and science are the ticket to good jobs and to America’s prosperity [...]

Scott

December 6th, 2011
4:39 pm

@AJinCobb

Your “sample of one” is an example of the type of student who is flourishing under the new curriculum. That is due to a combination of local schools actually holding kids accountable to meet the new math standards, and you as a math-aware parent holding your child accountable to learn the math. Yes, some kids and communities do hold their kids responsible to learn the curriculum.

No, the GPS is not the end of the world. It is an awesome curriculum on paper and sometimes in practice. However, it is vulnerable to local systems such as Cobb, Dekalb, and APS that fail to ensure consistent student success. Any system that lacks firm controls on student achievement, that lacks the courage to identify kids who are below grade level and intervene immediately, will experience problems implementing this curriculum.

I saw school administrators in southern Cobb handle this curriculum about as badly as it can be handled and then try to blame the poor results on the teachers. But the teachers knew the kids weren’t ready. It’s the administrators that grade after grade refused to let teachers hold back kids who didn’t master the material. The area superintendent needs to be sent packing. Classic mismanagement at the highest levels. As a result, kids aren’t held accountable to learn math until it was too late for many of them.

Scott

December 6th, 2011
4:40 pm

Correction:

“Yes, some *schools* and communities do hold their kids responsible to learn the curriculum.”

Ole Guy

December 6th, 2011
4:42 pm

Mr Spiegel has some very good advice. This is precisely why I advocate a curricula dense with advanced studies in the math and science disciplines NO MATTER whether the kid’s going to college, trade school, the work world, or simply hang out on the beaches for a while (not recommended…this is not 60s California).

Those people who dare to call themselves educators in one breath, and suggest that non-college bound kids need not tackle the tough courses in the other breath just might be in the wrong line of work. EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, needs all the math available, starting with Algebra I, and all the science courses, including the biosocial studies in health, sociology, sex ed…the whole enchelada.

The simple yardstick of college bound or not college bound (at the age of 18 plus or minus) is simply a brief crossroads in time, never to be revisited. The kids got, ahead of him/her, a 60-to-80 year endeavour called life. The kid doesn’t know wherenhell lifes gonna take him; college or not, these courses of study will most-certainly enable the kid to be a better person, a better citizen, and probably a better wage earner.

John Saxon - Math

December 7th, 2011
8:56 am

[...] CEO: Math and science are the ticket to good jobs and to America's prosperity CEO: Math and science are the ticket to good jobs and to America's prosperity We need to take the dread out of math and science homework-for students AND parents. There are terrific tools, including innovative online sites, which can help all of us brush up on STEM skills while helping our children. Improving these scores is not … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

mohammad tamer

December 7th, 2011
2:33 pm

This is a very good article.

UNION

December 7th, 2011
3:36 pm

Let’s unionize now Georgia!!!

Ole Guy

December 8th, 2011
3:02 pm

Saxon, I can appreciate your suggestion on taking the dread out of math and science. However, let’s not overlook the truisim (for whatever it’s worth) that the good things in life; the goals worth aspiring toward, are achievable only by traversing “forests of dread”. We’ve already managed to establish, within kids’ minds, that fun MUST be an integral component to learning, and to winning. This “let’s take out the dread” view is fine for the (gulp) children…either side of, say, 6 to 7…who are just starting to interact, on a “higher level”, with the world.

“Dread” is something which we must all learn to face, attack, and overcome. Just where do you feel we should start to introduce kids to the very real concept of dread?

AJinCobb

December 8th, 2011
9:47 pm

@Ole Guy,

I’m pretty much with you, although I think “dread” is perhaps too strong. But there’s a reason that math and science are traditionally regarded as difficult subjects … they are. Mastery takes a certain amount of aptitude leveraged by hard work and often involves time-consuming wrestling with a problem before you see your way clear to an answer.

I’m getting the impression that there’s an idea out there that everyone should be able to succeed at math and science just by showing up in class and putting in a moderate amount of time – but nothing that would get in the way of other activities. If it were quite that easy, everyone would already be qualified for those well paid STEM jobs.

[...] CEO: Math and science are the ticket to good jobs and to America’s prosperity Blog: Get Schooled, Atlanta Journal Constitution “Some of America’s most promising students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) recently competed in the nation’s premier math and science competition at Georgia Tech. Every year, our company hosts the competition to support the best and brightest high school students – the next great innovators. They aren’t the ones I worry about. As the CEO of a company that employs more than 60,000 employees in all 50 states, I’m much more concerned with those who shudder at the thought of algebra or chemistry; those who don’t realize that in the new economy, even in fields you wouldn’t expect, STEM proficiency is essential.” [...]