Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Math and Science: Why We Lack Teaching Talent

March 14, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Regarding “Senate Panel Explores Ways to Spur Progress on Math and Science” (Feb. 22, 2006):

With increasing frequency, U.S. notables bespeak themselves of the coming threat to America’s scientific pre-eminence from our weak production of math, science, and engineering graduates. But these same notables exhibit—in their lame recommendations—a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. The lack of science and math teaching talent is a bell-curve phenomenon.

Let’s take one field as an example: physics. Fifty-seven percent of physical-science teachers neither majored nor minored in the field, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Richard M. Ingersoll.

This should surprise no one. The mean combined (verbal and quantitative) Graduate Record Examination score of applicants for graduate study in physics and astronomy—1272—was the highest of all 51 areas of graduate study tested between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2004. The mean GRE for all education majors: 984. (The mean for all applicants was 1066.)

Physics majors are on the far right tip of the GRE bell curve. People with the aptitude to excel in physics are rare. People with the aptitude to be education majors are, let’s just say, rather more common.

That’s the hard reality about aptitude for subject matter. But public education is governed by its own hard reality: Every teacher must be paid according to seniority and to education course credits. It will take another Sputnik-like crisis to jolt America’s ineffectual elites to action on the science education front.

When they do act, it probably will be a top-down, central-planning “solution”—something to allow a dysfunctional system to limp along until the next perceived crisis is brought on by its irrational monopoly structure. Is not technocratic central planning what both political parties are about, Republican (No Child Left Behind, a vastly expanded federal role) and Democratic (ever more money)?

Tom Shuford

Lenoir, N.C.

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2006 edition of Education Week as Math and Science: Why We Lack Teaching Talent

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 11, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read