I tuned in to the Master’s golf tournament Sunday and was struck by the ExxonMobile commercials urging the country to work toward improving our declining global rank in math and science education. The narrator of one of the many commercial spots says, “Today we rank 25th in mathematics. There’s no medal for that. Let’s train more teachers. Let’s inspire our students. Let’s get America back on track.”
Easy for ExxonMobile to say, but enormously difficult to do—particularly in California, where we are continuing to disinvest in education in apocalyptic ways. Plaudits to ExxonMobile for saying it, but let them be the first in the industry to give their preferential tax loopholes back and return the dollars to the federal government. In turn, the Feds can give it to the states to use for strengthening math and science education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
But let’s take the points in the ExxonMobile commercial one at a time:
“Let’s train more teachers.”
I agree, but the facts speak to a growing issue here. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs is down 35-50 percent in the multiple-subject credential area. Some root causes for this systemic decline must be addressed first. These include:
*Teachers are bashed far too much in the media and Legislature. Teaching is a very difficult profession to do well. We must have programs to increase its stature once again. Declining dollars means fewer counselors, librarians, and more students per classroom etc. California ranks last in the nation on students per teacher.
*Some teacher preparation programs take two years of graduate study without earning a Master’s degree. After college, students need to start making money and lengthy teacher preparation programs inhibit this. One-year programs to earn a credential and Master’s degree should be the norm. Teach For America (TFA) does the coursework in five weeks in the summer and then provides coaching and professional development once the individual is receiving pay as a full time teacher in the classroom.
*College is getting more expensive each year. Graduate teaching preparation programs are out of the question for many, especially when a new teacher goes to work in a profession where the pay is less than other professions with graduate degree requirements.
“Let’s inspire our students.”
The NCLB testing requirements have, in too many classrooms, taken creativity and innovation away from the professional teacher. Formative testing so students can meet grade level common core standards should be the goal. Great teachers inspire students, yet the system is not attracting enough of the top-tier talent to the profession.
Public education—preschool through university—is the No. 1 issue of our time. Perhaps, the board of ExxonMobile gets it and is now in a campaign to help the mission—at least I truly hope so. The drumbeats must grow louder and every major corporation should step in to help.
We cannot afford to be 25th in math and 17th in science (2009 Programme for International Student Assessment) and maintain our economic and national security interests.
We know what works, we know the problems and we know their solution sets. We know how to “win the future,” as President Obama states. Now we need leaders bold and courageous enough to get us back to No. 1 by 2025. “Let’s get America back on track.”