Talk about education seems to be everywhere in the news lately. First, we learned on NBC’s Today Show that President Obama readily admits the Washington DC public schools can’t provide the high-quality education he wants for his daughters. And everyone is talking about the new movie “Waiting for Superman,” which spotlights problems in the New York City public school system. Then yesterday, New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, announced (here) what was called a “tough love” education reform package for the state’s public schools. My favorite part was this:
Unqualified teachers will feel the lash. The governor is demanding that teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade actually pass tests in reading and math in order to be certified.
You can bet that went over well with the education establishment. In fact, the state’s teacher’s union is already crying foul about that provision among others. Am I the only one scratching my head at the outrage here? If a teacher can’t pass reading and math tests, why is she standing in the front of the classroom? According to the National Council on Teacher Quality(NCTQ), part of the problem–at least in math–can be traced to inadequate preparation provided by college and universities to education majors. Education schools do not set high admission standards in math, nor do they require education students to improve their math skills. Some schools require NO math courses in order to obtain an education degree.
The NCTQ also highlights problems with high school science teachers. In another of its recent studies, the group found that the majority of states allow high school science teachers to teach specific subjects such as chemistry or physics without specialized training in those areas. Maybe the reason so many kids hate math and science is that their teachers simply can’t teach those subjects. Here’s the NCTQ conclusion:
But it does no one any good – not teachers, students, future scientists, or society in general – to create loopholes and use the notion of “flexibility” to cover up the fact that our nation’s students aren’t acquiring the scientific knowledge and skills they need for success in the 21st century. Unless we demand that STEM teachers have deep knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching, we won’t get to the root of the problem.
There is SO much wrong with education in America today. Without a desire to overhaul the system, from teacher training to licensing requirements to reforming tenure rules and so on, we won’t see any great leaps forward in our kids’ performance.
I’m certainly no genius, but I at least know when and where to seek help for my kids when we’re in the dark about geometry proofs, physics formulas, or the theme of a short story. That’s just one of the benefits of homeschooling.