Math and science scores for high school students in the United States is at the bottom of scores for 21 industrialized nations. Students in the United States spend half the amount of time as students in Europe on high school (or equivalent) studies, and students in the states say their priority at the end of their school day includes working a part-time job or spending time with friends on the Internet.
The corporate world sees the trend as problematic in an ever increasingly competitive global business environment.
On 16 September, International Business Machines (IBM) announced that it developed a program for employees to transition from IBM employee to math or science teacher. ExxonMobil Corp., partnered with the Tavis Smiley Foundation to develop a road show in which to boost interest and enthusiasm for math, science, and mathematics especially for minority students.
IBM said the United States faces a "critical shortage" of math and science teachers. It created a pilot program called IBM Transition to Teaching, which will enable 100 employees from the United States to participate. If the program proves successful, IBM says the program will expand.
Carnegie Learning is a provider of comprehensive mathematics curricula for middle school and high school students. "Education and business leaders in the United States have elevated improvements in high school math scores to the top of the national agenda," said Dennis Ciccone, chief executive officer of Carnegie Learning.
The Math for America Organization committed up to $25 million to train and maintain 180 teachers during the upcoming nine years. Some 51 New York City high school math teachers were inducted into the school system as the new school year kicked-off for fall 2005 in late August.
New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein welcomed the new teachers and 12 specially trained math teachers, as well as 39 other individuals currently enrolled in postgraduate math-education training at New York University and Teachers College/Columbia University, who will begin teaching in 2006.
Math for America is designed to bring 180 mathematics teachers, each committed to teaching for four years in the public school system after completing graduate training. All told, Math for America has thus far committed $6.38 million to the program in tuition, stipends and professional development. This amount includes $90,000 stipends paid directly to Fellows.
IBM will reimburse employees up to $15,000 for tuition and stipends while they student teach as well as provide online mentoring and other support services in conjunction with partner colleges, universities, and school districts. But IBM employees can't simply walk into a high school and begin student teaching, nor will $15,000 begin to cover the related training costs.
The teaching profession is one of the few degree-required fields that pay salaries less than what a bachelor's or master's degree would typically offer an new employee. Earning a bachelor's degree translates to an additional $323,000 over the lifetime of your career on average in the business world. A master's degree is only slightly more at $389,000. But for the teaching profession, the increases are flat. And more often than not a master's degree is now required before entering the classroom. Salaries are set for everyone at a district level and starting salaries range from the low-20,000s to mid-40,000s in the United States.
Teaching standards have risen dramatically in the United States during the past decade too. For New York State, any individual must hold a master's degree in education prior to receiving a certification. The state makes exceptions for special skills (multi-language) teachers from other nations, as long as they have a master's degree and teaching experience.
Any master's degree will not do in New York. Candidates must hold a master's degree in education. Candidates must also pass a series of state tests, the LAST, ATSW, and specialty tests (CST) in math, science, history, or language arts. Once you pass the tests, there are a series of meetings (plus fees for fingerprinting and application processing of about $180) at the Board of Education. If you are accepted, it is up to you to find a school principal to hire you. The process from beginning to end takes a minimum of eight months and could take up to 1.5 years upon acceptance.
If a candidate is interested in teaching (and does not have a master's degree in education) s/he must attend university level course work at the graduate level. Prices for the program per-year average from $12,000 (public) to $26,000 (private,) but the figures could be misleading for the larger universities.
In New York the tuition ranges from $35,000 per year at state schools, to $67,000 per year at New York University and Columbia University. A master's program typically takes two years to complete, which means at the top tuition price of $134,000, graduates will begin their teaching career at a starting salary of $46,000 (in New York City.)
Certification tests will run about $100 each (including study guides.) Plan at least two full weeks of study time to prepare for each of the New York State certification tests. The New York Teachers Union provides training seminars in preparation for the tests and those are highly recommended. Do not plan to take the tests without studying -- the Board of Education is not interested in your brain knowledge, they are interested in how you handle various classroom issues.
The essay portion of teaching certification tests are where prospective teachers usually fail. For new teachers you must pass the test before moving ahead. The tests are graded as pass or fail.
James Simons, chairman and founder of Math for America, said that the organization is being supported by individual businesspeople and investors, concerned about the sharp decline in math education scores by the nation's high school students.
"Mathematics is key to all sciences and technological disciplines, and there is an urgent need to assure that our students are getting the very best teachers in the classroom, especially at a time when the competition for mathematically-talented individuals is especially fierce and our economy requires an ever increasingly technologically-enabled work force," said Simons.
The United States Department of Labor says that jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training may increase by 50 percent by 2008, which could open up 6 million jobs in those fields. Not including the number of teachers who will retire each year, some 260,000 new math and science teachers are needed by 2009.
"Many of our experienced employees have math and science backgrounds and have made it clear that when they are ready to leave IBM they aren't ready to stop contributing," said Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation and vice president of IBM corporate community relations.
"They want to continue working in positions that offer them the opportunity to give back to society in an extremely meaningful way. Transferring their skills from IBM to the classroom is a natural for many - especially in the areas of math and science," Litow said.
Since 1994, IBM has offered a worldwide program for employees to take a leave of absence and teach in the field. Typically however those employees returned after a period of time. IBM's new program is geared towards permanent separation of the employee once s/he has entered the school to teach full-time (after earning his/her teaching certification.)
"New York schools are focused on preparing students for the innovation economy," said state education commissioner Richard Mills.
"New York needs more people with math and science skills to meet the growing job demand, but we need more teachers to make that happen," and he said that IBM's program "represents an important step by one of our biggest employers and leading companies, but we hope IBM is just the first company to step forward in this new initiative." IBM will target New York and North Carolina (two states in which the company's employee population is greatest.) Employees of IBM must have at least 10 years of service and a bachelor's degree in math or science or a higher degree in a related field. IBM also requires that employee to have already had experience teaching.
Klien commended IBM for sponsoring the program and urged other corporations to follow. "IBM employees are smart, highly motivated and thousands of them already volunteer and tutor in America's public schools," said James Hunt Jr., former governor of North Carolina. "Now, many of them will become terrific full-time teachers with the company's strong support. I hope more companies and organizations will follow IBM's great example."
The Talented Tenth High School Tour, sponsored by ExxonMobil, which runs from September through November 2005, will be conducted in: Washington, D.C.; Hampton, VA; St. Louis, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Jackson MS; New Orleans, LA; Brooklyn, NY; Atlanta, GA; and Houston, TX.
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