President Obama Aims to Develop STEM Master Teacher Corps


I love that this is the latest initiative, flavor of the month, and certainly it is a good one. How are we going to do this ? It is not a question whether or not we should do this, maybe even how to do it, but will anyone agree to do it?  I can’t imagine anyone would not understand the need for developing excellent teachers for STEM or any subjects, for that matter, and the incentives to reward them for their excellence in teaching and remaining cutting edge. The President clearly understands that excellent teaching is a combination of content knowledge and pedagogical skill. I think some could debate what is excellent in both of those areas. My idea of what deep content knowledge is may differ from someone else’s. I think good teaching is recognizable if not always identical. Both of these areas need definition. One busy day on twitter can show you that many experts don’t agree.

I am not sure how or what the enforcement or protocol will be to implement such a program. Will every truly excellent teacher get an opportunity for recognition? Will the recognition just be monetary  as stated or will it include professional development and continuing education? Is money enough or do we need to be sure teachers maintain their excellence as well as teaching new teachers about STEM subjects and how and what to teach. Community and private support makes sense. Businesses should foster STEM education, it only makes sense for them. Who will these participants be, and who will enlist them?

Does this initiative include assistance with project-based learning, what it is, and how to do it so it is effective? Will it include the arts, STEAM in the concept of STEM education?  How can we be certain that the intended ideas trickle down to real education for every student? The initiative takes its recommendations from a committee of industry and educational professionals. From the press release:

These Administration plans build on a key recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), calling for a national STEM Master Teacher Corps to recognize and help retain America’s most talented STEM teachers, build a community of practice among them, raise the profile of the STEM teaching profession, and leverage excellent teachers to collaborate with their peers to strengthen STEM education in America’s public schools.  

Sounds good. Yes, it does. I don’t think the problem lies in the substance of the plan, it is in getting it to happen – an entirely different thing. Will administrators recommend teachers? Is it going to be based on their performance reviews?  Will their background be considered? Will people with actual degrees in their disciplines be taken into account? Can non-education majors be trained in the necessary classroom pedagogy skills? Can we integrate industry professionals as mentors to work WITH teachers?

I am all for this initiative. I fear it will be one more great idea that never makes into reality. First, we need congress to approve and allocate the money for this. Of late, this legislative body has been notoriously short-sighted with self-important goals and priorities that do not look at the benefit for all people, especially the benefit for children to include the future and American society as a whole.

So what can we do as parents, teachers, administrators and community members to insure this initiative comes to pass. I am not sure, but I always say, speak up. Tell your legislators and school administrators. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Comment on blogs.  Organize a town hall. Make education matter and demonstrate that you care. And then there’s always that one other option, cast your vote.

The Education Week article announcing the new initiative : http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2012/07/president_obama_today_brought.html

The Press release from the White House about the initiative:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/17/president-obama-announces-plans-new-national-corps-recognize-and-reward-

Categories: 21st Century Education, arts and business, Arts Integrated Education, Education reform, Imagination, Innovation, integrated curriculum, Life Long Learners, mastery, project based learnning, science education, STEAM, STEM education, technology, Uncategorized

2 comments

  1. The real question is whether you can use this model to impact more than just the 5,000 teachers it is targeting. In Texas alone, we have 135,000 teachers K-12 that are responsible for teaching science. It is unclear to me how this program will address the systemic issues we have in recruiting, training and retaining people with strong STEM backgrounds in teaching. Great for the 5,0000 that are targeted, but what will it do for the dysfunctional system that underlies the problem?

    • Thanks Carol. You are right. In order to “fix” the problem, systemic change must happen in teacher preparation and training, as well as a paradigm shift. I am happy with the initiative in that anything is better than nothing and it may be a small step to begin to help the problem and perhaps bring the larger cause into focus. Teachers and administrators must realize what exactly the larger problem is and gain support from colleagues and community to begin to change. Just my opinion. There is always a lot of talk and not a lot of action. Thanks for your comment.

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