Published Online:

Higher Salaries Recommended For Teachers of Math, Science

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Palo Alto, Calif--To stop the current "brain drain" from the classroom to industry, teachers of mathematics and science should receive higher pay than other teachers.

This was the recommendation of several speakers at the first of six public hearings scheduled by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The initial meeting, held here earlier this month, was devoted to a discussion of science, mathematics, and technology.

Urgent Need for Change

Most speakers testified that the need for change is urgent because the "low quality" of current educational programs threatens the economic well-being and security of the nation.

In addition to recommending differential salaries, they suggested that the problem of "deteriorating" school programs in science and mathematics might be solved in part by:

A longer school day;

More up-to-date equipment and instructional materials;

Workshops and courses to upgrade the instructional capabilities of science and mathematics teachers;

Placement of mathematics and science specialists in elementary schools;

Leadership from the federal government and national groups to set high standards in mathematics and science education in elementary and secondary schools; and

Federal support to help meet these higher standards.

The lone dissenter to the idea of differential pay was Juliette Henry, a Los Angeles teacher and member of the state board of directors of the California Teachers Association (cta), an affiliate of the National Education Association (nea). In her testimony, Ms. Henry said the concept, if implemented, would create "an elitist attitude" on the part of mathematics and science teachers."

"The cta opposes the idea of differential salaries," she said. "We have always believed in a single salary schedule and that salaries of all teachers should be raised," not just those in certain subject areas.

The California Federation of Teachers was not represented at the meeting.

In an interview following the eight-hour meeting of the commission, Governor Albert H. Quie of Minnesota, one of the seven commissioners who attended the session, supported the differential-pay recommendation.

"Like everything else, you have to put a greater effort and more money in some areas than in others," he said. "Everything should not be treated as equal. If math and science teachers can't be recruited any other way, they should be paid more."

Influence of Marketplace

"I think the marketplace will work its influence on this matter in the long run, irrespective of fears to the contrary," said David P. Gardner, chairman of the commission and president of the University of Utah, who supported the recommendation. "If the schools are going to get these teachers, they are going to have to pay for them. If they don't, we won't have math and science teachers in the schools."

Representing the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Harold D. Taylor, a mathematics teacher in the San Mateo (Calif.) High School District, told commission members that mathematics teachers require higher pay than other teachers because "the average salary of a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree is no more than 60 percent of the beginning salary offered by private industry to bachelors-degree graduates in mathematics and statistics."

He added that "all teachers in short supply should be offered incentives to enter or to remain in teaching."

"Paying math and science teachers more than other teachers would be traumatic in any school," said Bernard M. Oliver, technical consultant to the president of the Hewlett-Packard Co., "but the law of supply and demand will prevail. It's already happening in universities."

The Houston Independent School District has already established an optional-pay plan with no major difficulties, Mr. Taylor pointed out. (See Education Week, Oct. 26, 1981.) Called the "Second Mile," the program provides higher salaries for those who teach in areas of critical teacher shortages.

Seriousness Stressed

The seriousness of the teacher-training problem was emphasized by Sarah E. Klein, president of the National Science Teachers Association, who reported on studies conducted by her organization. She pointed out that the average number of mathematics and science teachers prepared by schools of education to teach secondary-school mathematics declined by 77 percent over the past 10 years. The number prepared to teach science dropped by 65 percent during that period. And of those who were prepared to teach science and mathematics, she testified, about half went into industry.

Ms. Klein cited a national survey in which high-school principals were asked what percentage of the mathematics and science teachers they employed during the past two years were actually "qualified" to teach those subjects. The responses of the principals, she said, revealed that 50 percent of the teachers nationwide were considered "unqualified" and that, in Pacific Coast states, 84 percent of new teachers hired to teach mathematics and science were thought by their principals to be unqualified to do so.

Model Program

Henry L. Alder, professor of mathematics at the University of California at Davis and a representative of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, told the commission that universities should "assist public schools by providing them with placement tests for high-school juniors so they can be advised ... of deficiencies they need to make up in their senior year." He described as "successful" a model program in operation at Ohio State University that is testing approximately 35,000 students in 219 Ohio schools this year.

"We recommend expansion of similar assessments to include, for example, testing of proper preparation for beginning algebra courses," Mr. Alder said, "since, without proper preparation in arithmetic, a student is most unlikely to succeed in an algebra course."

Mr. Alder and his organization also support the modification of certification requirements to permit mathematics and science graduates who lack professional education preparation to teach at the secondary level, provided safeguards are established to ensure the quality of instruction.

Several speakers, among them H. Guyford Stever, chairman of the Assembly of Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences, also addressed the need for encouraging and challenging talented students. Mr. Stever suggested that special schools, specifically the Bronx (N.Y.) High School of Science, should be replicated in school districts across the country.

"This is a school with special entrance examinations for superior students," he explained. "Opportunities abound there for science and mathematics students.

"Young people should be exposed to creative work and problem solving in mathematics and science as early as possible," Mr. Stever said, ''so that those who show special bents can be singled out for advanced education. If this can be done well, it may be the best thing we can do in our primary and secondary schools."

"The primary culprit [of the national malaise in education] is our curriculum," said Mr. Taylor. "It is geared too low. We teach to the average or below average student and our ... materials are directed to these students. And far too small a portion of teacher time is directed toward those who are more capable."

The excellence commission was appointed by President Reagan to recommend ways of promoting excellence in public and private schools. Its next hearing, set for April 16 in Houston, will focus on language, literacy, and foreign-language instruction. The commission's final report is scheduled to be released in March 1983.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented