Bonus Pay Opposed for Math, Science Teachers

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Washington--Any national effort to improve science and mathematics education must focus on both elementary and secondary schools, and must also institute programs to train and retrain teachers, a special panel convened by the American Federation of Teachers has concluded in its final report.

But the panel opposed the use of bonuses or salary differentials for mathematics and science teachers--a measure now being considered by some states--on the grounds that they would divide the teaching profession.

The panel, whose members included 12 aft leaders from across the country, was created in September 1982 to explore the problems that confront science and mathematics education, and to recommend measures to alleviate them.

"Our technological competence, the condition of the nation's infrastructure, the state of the economy, and the nation's defense--all are behind a new recognition that quality math and science education are important," said Albert Shanker, president of the 560,000-member organization, in a statement announcing the panel's final report.

Curriculum, Teacher Training

The panel offered several major conclusions that addressed both curriculum and teacher training and supply.

Scientific and mathematical literacy, it said, must be required of all students, not only those who plan to go to college. Hence, high-quality materials--including computers--must be available to all schools. And since students' motivation has been cited as a particular problem, special enrichment programs and programs for talented students should also be made available.

However, the panel urged that those who seek to solve the problems must guard against inequitable distribution of computers and other resources.

Inservice programs for teachers should be developed that address the need both to improve the qualifications of certified teachers and to help those who want to become certified to teach mathematics and science, according to the panel's report. The inservice programs might include some modeled on National Science Foundation summer institutes, as well as on teacher centers.

Programs to recruit new teachers to these fields, the panel concluded, should include emphases on informing students of job opportunities in these fields, highlighting available scholarship programs, and creating incentives to encourage graduates to take jobs in education rather than industry. Such incentives might include funding for additional study and the assurance of summer jobs in industry, the group said.

The aft panel also urged the creation of loans, which students would not have to repay if they taught in the public schools for a prescribed period of time. Several states--Kentucky, for example--have already instituted forgivable loan programs.

The panel also urged the development of special mathematics and science programs for elementary-school teachers, many of whom have very limited academic backgrounds in the fields. The group suggested that it would be worthwhile to consider training some elementary-school teachers as specialists in these areas.

The panel said it agreed, in general, with much of the current thinking in business and education about the nature of and solutions for the mathematics and science problem. But it also offered a list of ideas from which it disassociated itself.

In addition to opposing the practice of paying science and mathematics teachers more money than other teachers, the aft group disapproved of the use of noncertified teachers, whether from business or education, in the classroom. "In our view," the report says, "teaching is a profession that requires expertise in both the content and the process of teaching and learning."

The panel declared itself "skeptical of strategies to recruit prospective teachers from the private sector." These recruits, its report argued, would want to take over the teaching of advanced classes, which would reduce the incentive for the experienced people who now teach those classes to stay in the profession. The group also opposed lengthening teachers' workday in the absence of negotiated compensation for the additional time.

Although generally supportive of the use of computers, the panel opposed the "indiscriminate dumping of computer equipment on school systems that are not yet prepared to evaluate their worth." States and school districts should develop evaluation systems for computers and software, the panel said.

The group also opposed "government assistance to support expansion of remedial math and science education programs in the private sector that should be more appropriately done by the public schools." The aft would "actively oppose" any measure that it believes favors the private sector at the expense of public schools, such as tuition tax credits.

The "action plan" offered by the panel to set the recommendations in motion includes wide-ranging efforts by federal, state, and local agencies and officials. The federal government, the panel said, should launch a comprehensive initiative to support mathematics and science education that would address the needs of both teachers and students. The inservice training of elementary-school teachers, it recommends, should be a high priority.

Program Suggested

The states, in addition to working with federal programs, should review their curricula and their teacher-training programs. Local districts can help by increasing requirements for students, providing teachers with the time and flexibility to take courses and other training, and by resisting "the temptation to raise class size or lower graduation requirements to ease the effect of teacher shortages."

The group also advocated continued efforts by educators to work with business and industry to improve mathematics and science education.

Vol. 02, Issue 24

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