Thursday, July 19, 2012
Obama's $1 billion master teacher program
Two years ago, an advisory group on scientific competitiveness recommended that the US create a "master teacher" corps in STEM fields. These highly compensated teachers would mentor other teachers, create new lesson plans and aid in professional development. Recently, the White House threw its weight behind this idea, calling on Congress to create a $1 billion master teacher program for science, math and technology. While it's unclear any new spending will get passed these days, it's a fascinating idea. Several years ago, I wrote about a program called Math for America that provided extra professional development and bonus checks for math majors who became teachers. People with STEM degrees may be in more demand in industry, so education represents a potential income cut that might not be as pronounced for an English major. A program that paid them more and gave them an elite status could help with recruiting. Broadly, the idea also hints at extending the reach of knowledgeable teachers. This raises the whole class size issue again. In recent years, there have been several programs to reduce class sizes. The problem is that if it's already hard to get good math teachers, getting more of them is going to be even harder. If you have to dip lower into the applicant pool to get smaller class sizes, the class sizes might not wind up being the deciding variable. So what I'd love to see is this master teacher idea combined with a blended learning program, so that even more kids could get access to the best math lectures, and work on problem sets, and then get one-on-one time from master teachers, who could potentially handle classes with 40 kids or more with an instructional aide. Maybe that aide could be a student who's a math major, apprenticing with one of these master math teachers. It's an idea... What do you think of the master teacher idea?