What would happen if an engineering company decided to pay engineers the same as they pay technicians? You would get technician level engineers, that’s what would happen.
The same is true with regard to our public education. Because of unions, our public education system pays science teachers the same as english teachers, and given that science majors are in great demand in the private sector, this has a downward push on able science teachers.
Naked Economics, a book I finished reading a few months ago, explains it this way:
Meanwhile, American public education operates a lot more like North Korea than Silicon Valley. I will not wade into the school voucher debate, but I will discuss one striking phenomenon related to incentives in education that I have written about for the The Economist. The pay of American teachers is not linked in any way to performance; teachers’ unions have consistently opposed any kind of merit pay. Instead, salaries in nearly every public school district in the country are determined by a rigid formula based on experience and years of schooling, factors that researchers have found to be generally unrelated to performance in the classroom. This uniform pay scale creates a set of incentives that economists refer to as adverse selection. Since the most talented teachers are also likely to be good at other professions, they have a strong incentive to leave education for jobs in which pay is more closely linked to productivity. For the least talented, the incentives are just the opposite.
The theory is interesting; the data are amazing. When test scores are used as a proxy for ability, the brightest individuals shun the teaching profession at every juncture. The brightest students are the least likely to choose education as a college major. Among students who do major in education, those with higher test scores are less likely to become teachers. And among individuals who enter teaching, those with the highest test scores are the most likely to leave the profession early. None of this proves that America’s teachers are being paid enough. Many of them are not, especially those gifted individuals who stay in the profession because they love it. But the general problem remains: Any system that pays all teachers the same provides a strong incentive for the most talented among them to look for work elsewhere. (Naked Economics, Pg 28-29)
So we shouldn’t be surprised at news like this:
Science education in U.S. elementary and middle schools is overly broad and superficial, according to a government report issued Thursday that also faults science curricula for assuming children are simplistic thinkers.
“All children have basic reasoning skills, personal knowledge of the natural world, and curiosity that teachers can build on to achieve proficiency in science,” said the report from the National Research Council, one of the National Academies….
The report also criticized teacher training, saying undergraduate courses required for teachers were not substantial enough and schools need to support their teachers in learning more about their subject.
“Any grown-up who can read can teach middle school general sciences,” said Mara Cohen, an eighth grade science teacher in New York who was certified to instruct chemistry but also teaches life and general sciences.
Last year Cohen, who was not associated with the report, said she taught pupils who spoke English as a second language, and that they often failed to understand lessons and did poorly on standardized state tests.
The report found her students were not alone.
While “all students regardless of background have the capabilities needed to engage with and be successful in science,” students from low-income areas and certain language and ethnic groups fall behind, it said.
In other words, you have english level science teachers.