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100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:42 am
by Dave Jensen
Interesting article; no mention of increasing postdoc years or underemployment in the life sciences.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:06 pm
by Ken
For the life of me, I can't understand how there is not an accelerated program to transition postdocs into super qualified STEM teachers. We have an overabundance of the former, and a lack of the latter. This seems like a policy no brainer.

If postdocs were offered a program to rapidly get teacher certification while they finish their postdocs, and then get paid as more senior teachers by counting their science training as "time served", I think many postdocs would jump at the opportunity. And the country would have real life actual scientists in classrooms.

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:11 pm
by T. Johnson
I personally looked into it myself when I found myself unemployed after finishing my PhD but was overwhelmed at the idea of having to go back to school to get a teaching credential. Specifically in California, I was so baffled by all the things I needed to do in order to teach High School Biology in public school I said nevermind. The only real options that are out there for trained scientists that do want to teach K-12 are teach in Private Schools where there are less stringent credentials needed to cross the barrier.

I know of a few older Scientists that left Academia have gone this route to teach Science in Private School when they decided they didn't want to play the grant rat race anymore and wanted to have a more predictable schedule with the same time off as their kids. It was actually pretty interesting we had one of those career talks when I was a PostDoc and the person was telling us how he has a pretty comfy budget as this Private School was in one of the richer areas of the city so he was able to do some complex experiments with a great equipment setup. He even setup a cloning group for kids to learn basic recombinant DNA techniques for senior projects and Academic Labs in the surrounding area can submit their cloning projects to the school and have them done by the students.

This doesn't address the needs of the Public School system but it shows how cutting the red tape can get experienced scientists into schools and open students eyes to things that a textbook trained science teacher just can't provide. They are spending so much money to train new STEM teachers when there are is a highly trained STEM pool that would only need training on teaching strategies and k-12 learning. I imagine side by side teaching with a seasoned veteran teacher for the first year or two along with a few training courses would be sufficient.

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:40 pm
by Dave Jensen
Love the concept, Ken, and I'm so surprised that I haven't seen this concept tossed around. Postdocs are an incredible resource for the country and potentially for young people if some of them went the teaching route.


Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 5:59 pm
by Dick Woodward

The concept is great. The reality, however, is somewhat different. Teaching is controlled by labor unions (aka cartels) called the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. They have enormous lobbying clout, which means that what they say pretty much goes. This is why private schools can have Ph.D.-level teachers, but a Nobel-prize winning chemist would not be allowed to teach in a public high school without going back for a huge number of courses. On the other hand, once you are in the system, you are in. I had a neighbor who was a history teacher. One day he told me that he had become a science teacher because it paid better. While he was a conscientious guy, and probably did an OK job, I would have been curious as to how much science he actually took in college. I guarantee that it was less than a post-doc, and was probably elementary biology or chemistry.

In fairness, teaching is more than subject matter knowledge. There are issues involved in dealing with a classroom full of adolescents or teenagers that you don't have in college (or didn't have at one time - after watching the news lately, I'm not so sure) that can certainly require a level of non-scientific skills. It is not clear to me that these should take more than a year to learn.

In the interim, there are getting to be more and more private schools, and quasi-public schools (aka charters) that are not enslaved to the unions. I suggest that post-docs look at these. A couple of courses in the mechanics of teaching will be helpful in obtaining these types of positions.


Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:13 pm
by Abby
Dick- be careful placing all the blame for public education on the "teachers unions". All the regulations for teacher accreditation are coming from state legislatures and school boards, not teachers unions. And, by the way, the teachers unions are comprised of all your and your kids favorite classroom teachers, not some shady nefarious "others".

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 12:13 pm
by Yandorio
"Specifically in California, I was so baffled by all the things I needed to do in order to teach High School Biology in public school I said nevermind. "

Thank you, thank you, thank you. After 15 years publishing papers
and having trouble in the oh-so-leaky postdoc-professor pipeline,
I started asking around Junior Colleges and High Schools in my area
and wasn't getting any positive vibes at all, even with the Doctorate and good recommendations. Wait a second, I can currently teach at Harvard but I can't teach at the High School down the street until I get some certificate? But High School teacher hiring/maintenance is not logical; didn't we learn that from the Michelle Rhee debacle or "Waiting for Superman?" Anyone who ties together the postdoc overload with the good teacher shortage in High Schools deserves the Nobel.

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:16 pm
by Dave Walker
At my graduate institution this topic came up often. As mentioned, teaching in private schools is a fine transition step, though one can argue this is not where those 100,000 new STEM teachers are needed most. Unfortunately, the clear-cut notion of transitioning postdocs to science teachers is murky at best.

Some things I remember:
- Systemic disdain for PhD-holders becoming teachers instead of rsearchers. We have talked often about how PIs frown at their pupils moving away from academic research into the industry/consulting/patent law/etc. I would argue it is far worse for those becoming teachers, and a major psychological hurdle for the field. If every PhD who becomes a teacher is subconsciously thought of as "a failure," there's no way this will ever work.

- Friction between new PhD-holding STEM teachers and senior teachers with less education. There is also a contempt on the other side of someone with a PhD thinking they're smarter than everyone else.

- Over-eager postdocs and graduate students do not inherently make good teachers. I don't mean to be crass, but I think this is one of the biggest deterrents. Most trainees do not get training in education theory or classroom experience, while this is mandatory for a BS-level Education major. I feel this is similar to how some PIs are good leaders but none are trained as such -- it happens outside of whatever skills they are trained in.

For what it's worth, programs like Teach For America can help with these issues. But even so, it's a long road for someone who has spent 5-15 years on the grad student/postdoc treadmill.

Re: 100,000 New STEM Teachers Being Recruited

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:25 pm
Although not particularly targeted to postdocs, a number of cities and states have accelerated teaching certificate programs for "career switchers", particularly in STEM fields. They might also be called alternative certifications. Sometimes they will place you as a student teacher and pay you a small stipend while you take classes in pedagogy. Others will support you through your training in exchange for working in a high needs school district for a certain number of years afterwards. Some may not support you during the training but offer reduced class loads that you could take while working. They do vary by state and sometimes by city (California was not a state I personally looked into, but I looked at a number of locations in the midwest or east coast). I don't think it is unreasonable to require some teacher training in order to become a high school teacher. Targeting complex science to a true lay audience is not an easy task. I know the one PhD science teacher I had in high school was the worst teacher-- it's a totally different skill set.