Letters from modeling workshop leaders

to the Business-Higher Education Forum

 

The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) is comprised of Fortune 500 CEOs, university presidents, and foundation leaders. http://www.bhef.com

 

These letters by two outstanding modelers were not replied to, unfortunately. Yet they argue for essential needs for teachers: “There are proven models of professional development (like Modeling Instruction) that are needed now more than ever, but are not getting the funding to reach a significant fraction of the math & science teachers in this country.” “What is lacking is a program that will fund new curricula development and workshop training.”

 

 

Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005

From: Larry Dukerich

Subject: Fwd: Responding to the Crisis in Math and Science Ed (BHEF)

To: info@bhef.com

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

I am forwarding you a post I made to the Modeling listserv (which

serves ~ 1200 teachers of physics, chemistry and physical science

nationwide and around the world) after I read excerpts of the report

released by BHEF on 2-16.  You should recognize that the teachers

know what the problems are - it's just that we are not in the

position to do as much about them as we would love to do.

You can check out what we at the Modeling Instruction Program have

been trying to do for the past decade by pointing your browser to

http://modeling.asu.edu

****

 

Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005

To: MODELING@asu.edu

From: Larry Dukerich

Subject: Responding to the Crisis in Math and Science Ed (BHEF)

Hi Folks,

Jane [Jackson] recently posted excerpts from the report (released

2/16/05) of the Business and Higher Education Forum (BHEF) on the

sorry state of math and science education in the U.S.  I managed to

curb my initial reaction to go berserk and say something totally

inappropriate to this group of what I am sure are very nice people.

However, I cannot let this one go without making some comments.

Please excuse the following tirade:

 

They write:

>"Mathematics and science education in this country is falling short

>of what is required to keep America productive, stable, and secure,"

>says the report. "It is not producing the quantity of mathematics

>and science talent that America needs to meet the challenges it now

>faces. Neither is it preparing all students to be scientifically

>literate citizens capable of participating in a democracy

>increasingly influenced by scientific and technological innovations."

then, go on to make the following recommendations:

 

>1. Establish a P-16 leadership council in each state, comprised of

>representatives from business, education, and policymakers, and

>including classroom teachers, administrators, and community college

>representatives. The councils would be responsible for defining,

>benchmarking, and initiating a statewide plan for improving P-16

>science and math education.

 

I'm afraid that assembling such groups to study the problem and make

recommendations that will not get funded will be a monumental waste

of time, energy and money, at a time when all three are in short

supply.  This work has already been done by the members of the Glenn

Commission in their Report "Before It's Too Late" issued in Sept,

2000.  A copy of the report can be obtained by pointing your browser

to http://www.ed.gov/inits/Math/glenn/index.html .  The report

offered not just vague goals, but specific suggestions about how to:

 

1. Establish an ongoing system to improve the quality of mathematics

and science teaching in grades K-12;

2. Increase significantly the number of mathematics and science

teachers and improve the quality of their preparation; and

3.  Improve the working environment and make the teaching profession

more attractive for K-12 mathematics and science teachers.

 

>2. Address and align the five P-12 system components: content

>standards, curricula, assessments, teacher preparation, and

>accountability practices.

 

Yep, that's what we're doing right now in AZ (and a host of other

states).  Sometimes I think it's criminal how much money is spent in

these meetings at posh hotels - I think they should be forced to meet

in school cafeterias - and spend the money they'd save on, say, new

desks to replace the ones that are falling apart.

 

>3. Engage business and higher education in more effective P-12

>reform roles. Business needs to be more involved and better align

>corporate education outreach programs with the state's

>standards-based initiatives. More higher education institutions must

>put the education of teachers of mathematics and science at the

>center of its mission.

 

If the business leaders would listen to what has already been said

and decide to apply pressure on Congress and the Bush administration

to actually FUND the mandates in NCLB, then I would cheer.  I do

cheer when Jane, through great dint of effort, extracts enough money from

the Arizona Board of Regents or from some company like Medtronics to

run a workshop to train teachers, but the funding she obtained was

0.5% of the $$$ the state of AZ has decided to provide for tutoring

students to pass the AIMS (Arizona Instrument for Measuring Students)

graduation test.  Unfortunately, the funding for the Modeling

Instruction Program, arguably one of the better teacher training

programs, is due to expire this summer.  On the bright side, Project

Pathways, a Math/Science partnership designed to help math and

science teachers at the secondary level work together more

effectively, has started up at ASU and promises to provide meaningful

professional development to 300+ teachers over the next five years.

 

Projects such as these should be springing up everywhere.  Over four

years ago, the Glenn Commision Report noted:

“About 56% of high school students taking physical science are taught

by out-of-field teachers, as are 27% of those taking mathematics.

These percentages are much greater in high poverty areas. Among

schools with the highest minority enrollments, for example, students

have less than a 50% chance of getting a science or mathematics

teacher who holds both a license and a degree in the field being

taught. Thus, when the dismissal bell rings each day, untold

thousands of American students depart for home having been taught

by mathematics and science teachers ill-equipped for the job.”

 

In 2001, I met with representatives of my Congressman and the Senators

from my state, armed with this report, and tried to get them to

persuade their bosses to work to enact legislation that would help

address this problem.  They were polite but told me that so and so

was very busy and that the recommendations cost too much.  To

implement the reform suggested in the report would have cost $5

billion/year.  This is no small sum of money; however, what we

allocated in supplemental spending for the war in Iraq and

Afghanistan last year alone would have paid for this reform for a

whole generation of students in this country.  You can make your own

judgments about our foreign policy - I'm only saying that we spend

$$$ on what we think is really important in this country and just

talk about the rest.

 

>4. Implement coordinated national and state-specific public

>information programs that will engage the public in the nationwide

>effort to strengthen the mathematics and science education of all

>students.

 

A few years ago the tenor of the debate in this country shifted to

pointing fingers of blame rather than asking how we all can work

together to fix the problem. I, for one, am tired of hearing about

"failing schools" from civic leaders who refuse to provide the

resources to improve the educational infrastructure.  Such posturing

at the expense of those who ultimately have to implement reform is

certainly not improving morale; in fact, teachers are leaving the

profession at the time we most need them  The BHEF report states:

 

“The teacher pool in mathematics and science education continues to

shrink as prospects interested in those subject fields are being

drawn away from teaching by broadening employment opportunities, jobs

with higher salaries, career growth potential, and greater

independence in work-related decision making. Increasing the number

of students qualified for work or higher education won't happen

unless America addresses the problem of developing and sustaining a

highly qualified mathematics and science teacher workforce.”

 

I think we need to move past convening blue-ribbon panels to talk

about how to improve science & math education in this country.

Ratcheting up expectations without providing the necessary resources

to those whose job it is to help students achieve them is somewhat

like having your physician tell you that your blood pressure is too

high, but no, sadly, we cannot afford to give you medication to treat

the problem.  Come back in a year and we'll test you again and, if

your BP is still too high, we'll yell at you some more.

 

There are proven models of professional development (like Modeling

Instruction) that are needed now more than ever, but are not getting

the funding to reach a significant fraction of the math & science

teachers in this country.  Perhaps the BHEF should spend less time

publishing slick reports on the state of math & science education and

work harder to persuade our civic and business leaders to provide the

support we need.

 

Thank you.  I'll go grade papers now.

****

--

Larry Dukerich

 

            --------------------------

 

Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005

From: Carmela Minaya

Subject: BHEF 48-page report

To: info@bhef.com

Cc: Larry Dukerich, Brenda Royce, Consuelo Rogers, Jane Jackson

 

Aloha Brian Fitzgerald,

 

I am a physical science, general chemistry, and advanced placement

chemistry teacher in Mililani, HI on the island of Oahu.  I use Modeling

Instruction based at Arizona State University in my own classroom.

Modeling Instruction is only one of two programs nationally to be

designated with the highest honor of "exemplary" by the US Dept. of

Education.  I read the BHEF report.  It has created quite a stir on the

Modeling list serve where many teachers have had passionate comments

about it.

 

Have you read the Glenn Report of 2000 or 2001 entitled: "Before It's

Too Late?"  The executive summary can be found here:

http://www.ed.gov//inits/Math/glenn/toolate-execsum.html. The same

issues are addressed in both reports.  The difference is mainly who

authored the report.  This report was distributed by The National

Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st century.  I

am grateful that your participants expressed and tried to do something

about the shortfall in science and math education in the USA, but

unfortunately your efforts are a near duplicate of efforts not even five

years ago.

 

Most teachers are concerned because these are all wonderful ideas, but

we cannot see how those ideas will translate into reality.  We are not

short on creativity; we are deficient in time and funds to make these

ideas impact the classroom (the frontlines).  I liken the whole process

to a war.  We are in a war for the minds of the next generation of

American citizens.  We are in a war for the ownership of our country's

future.  In this war, many leaders are meeting and planning, but no one

is willing to fund those on the front lines who can make the biggest

impact.  It's like not funding bullet proof vests.  We somehow expect to

win the war by constantly evaluating what is being done wrong without

ever doing anything tangible to address the wrongs and do retraining.

 

In my mind, the biggest American disadvantage is the length of our

school day and school year.  Our global competitors meet with their

students for longer in a day, and for more months during a school year.

An aside to this teaching time, is time for teachers to develop their

great ideas fully in teams.  We have so much responsibility on a daily

basis that this seems impossible.  It would be nice if we could take a

year at a time off to have the opportunity to develop curricula.

 

The second disadvantage outside of time is lack of training.  The Glenn

Report found that most math and science teachers are teaching outside

their expertise because math and science majors can do better

financially by entering the private sector and working for companies

Research & Development Departments.  I am a case in point.  I am

retraining by procuring an MNS in physics from ASU.  This summer will be

my last summer.  I plan to also go on to earn a Ph.D. someday because

I'd like to write and impact chemistry pedagogy that way.  ASU's

Modeling Instruction program addresses many of the needs in both

reports.  However, only 5% of all physics teachers know how to utilize

modeling instruction and less than that can use the method in other

scientific or mathematic disciplines.  ASU runs out of grant money this

summer.  I'm not sure what will happen to the program after that.

 

Currently, I am on a team of four teachers in three different states

trying to develop a chemistry modeling curriculum, update the assessment

tool (the Matter Concept Inventory, MCI), and schedule workshops during

summer months.  We began discussions in March 2004.  We know that we

could crank out great products if we could meet in person and work

really hard.  We tried to meet this last Winter Break, but we are

teachers and lack the funds.  We even tried to have web meetings using

the Internet, but that didn't work out.  So I am currently applying for

grants to fund our meetings and our workshops.  We have one inaugural

workshop set for this summer so far through ASU.  I'm trying to get

funding for a workshop at my high school next summer, 2006.

 

May I suggest that at your next meeting, you spend the time searching

for worthy programs that already exist and find ways (get companies on

board or find federal funding) to help these already existing programs

that are endangered or nearly extinct not because of lack of

imagination, but for lack of funding.  That is what happened to the Chem

ART (Action Research Team).  They began working together at the turn of

the twenty-first century.  They ran out of money and stopped meeting

during the summer months.  I was moved to revive the group informally

because of a conversation I had with an engineering professor in MA.  He

asked for our curriculum.  I told him we work independently so if we go

those ideas are gone also.  That saddened me so deeply that I began this

work we are doing now with no funding.

 

It would really help if leaders of these innovative programs could be

funded to meet and develop curricula fully.  This could be done

through universities like ASU or through teacher organizations.  These

education reform teacher leaders could be bought out of their school for

a year at a time to do the work.  The NSTA is another great organization

to work with to accomplish this.  They have a teacher award program.

What is lacking is a program that will fund new curricula development

and workshop training.  If your group can help, that would be the best

and most efficient way to do so.

 

I truly hope that you will listen intently to those on the front-lines,

the ones who have real impact in the classroom and take action to help

those that really need the help.  It's not the government agencies that

will spark change; it is the teacher in the classroom.  We are in dire

need of support not by agencies, but by funding our ideas.  Thank you

for reading my concerns.  I hope you can help us or help us find those

who can.  It would be so wonderful if the BHEF were responsible for REAL

science and math education reform nationally.  Imagine what improved

country statistics we could have in five years with real change and not

just band aid solutions.

 

Mahalo,

Carmela Minaya, Science Teacher

Hanalani Schools

Upper School Division

94-294 Anania Drive

Mililani, HI  96789