More Math, Science Training Urged

Wednesday, September 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — A generation after the space race spurred concerns over math and science learning, such teachers are barely ahead of their students and 10 times more money should be spent to train them, says a panel headed by an ex-astronaut.

The panel — led by former Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth — maintains that more than 25 percent of high school teachers of math and science lack even a college minor in those areas.

It has proposed a $5 billion budget for making sure teachers earn majors or minors in math and science, teach those courses instead of others, and get incentives to stay in their jobs. The report stopped short of calling for a pay increase — an issue many educators say keeps schools from luring top teachers from more-lucrative technology jobs.

In the Seattle public schools system, recruiter Michael Jones hears stories of computer firms offering high school students six-figure jobs upon graduation.

``When they start thinking about college majors, it's not going to math education or physics education,'' said Jones, who recruits teachers of all subjects for the 47,000-student system. ``This is something bigger than the school district. Pay needs to be better and the profession needs more prestige.''

The commission's plan, much more than the roughly $500 million in federal teacher training grants, calls for two federal dollars for every dollar spent at the state and local level — an uncommon slice of the education-spending pie.

``It's costly,'' said Glenn, who made history in 1962 on his orbital flight and again 36 years later as the oldest person in space. ``It's far, far more costly if we do nothing.''

``Our kids aren't going to be competitive,'' he said. ``We'll see the good jobs in the world go to other countries.''

The National Commission on Math and Science Teaching in the 21st Century, also known as the Glenn Commission, was given a year to study why as American children got older, they consistently did poorer than other nations on math and science tests.

The panel was also charged with recommending ways to prepare, attract, and keep good math and science teachers. While pay has been an issue for many educators, the panel did not call for specific increases in how much math and science teachers earn.

``Young people with an affinity for math and science can earn more money than teachers,'' said Linda Rosen, math and science policy adviser for Education Secretary Richard Riley. ``But we don't just want to raise pay across the board until we really have provided an opportunity for teachers to achieve the quality we are looking for.''

The group, disbanded with the release of this study, included more than two dozen teachers, school superintendents, governors, members of congress and industry executives.

It also recommended that states and schools boards assess their teachers' knowledge and needs and increase degree requirements.