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Thursday, 19 July 2012 05:00

Obama Admin. Unveils $1-Billion “Master Teacher Corps”

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The Obama administration announced a new initiative Wednesday to recruit an elite group of master educators in a $1-billion effort to bolster U.S. educational attainment in the subjects of math, science, engineering, and technology. “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible,” President Obama said when introducing the effort. “Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.”

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps, comprised of “some of the nation’s finest educators in STEM subjects,” is slated to launch with 50 teachers grounded in 50 different sites, with a four-year goal to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. The elite group is charged with a multi-year commitment to the corps, and in return for their service and expertise, they will receive an annual $20,000-stipend on top of their current salary.

Speaking at a campaign event in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday, Obama emphasized an urgency to boost education funding, while blasting Republican rival Mitt Romney for preferring tax cuts to the wealthy over quality education for America’s children. “I’m running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate,” the president declared. “And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science.” 

The White House expounded on the program, explaining that the underlying goal is to generate a breeding effect in which highly skilled educators share their expertise with other teachers, generating a more expansive educational quality for students across the nation:

Today, the Administration also announced that the President will immediately dedicate approximately $100 million of the existing Teacher Incentive Fund toward helping school districts implement high-quality plans to establish career ladders that identify, develop, and leverage highly effective STEM teachers. With an application deadline of July 27th, over 30 school districts across America have already signaled their interest in competing for funding to identify and compensate highly effective teachers who can model and mentor STEM instruction for their teaching peers, providing those teachers with additional compensation, recognition, and responsibilities in their schools.

According to Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant to the president in education policy, STEM teachers will be chosen among local education leaders and will spend at least four years in the role. "They'll be an elite group of teachers leading their communities,” Rodriguez affirmed. “They'd lead professional development [courses], mentorship activities, and would be regularly contributing new lesson plans and strategies to transform and improve science and math teaching.”

Over the long term, the administration plans to propel the initiative with $1 billion included in the president’s 2013 budget request. However, both chambers of Congress struck down Obama’s budget earlier this year, posing a serious obstacle for his ability to get congressional approval for the program's $1-billion price tag.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan expects, rather ambitiously, the plan will see bipartisan support in an effort to boost achievement in critical educational areas. “This initiative has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “It’s absolutely in our country’s best long-term economic interest to do a much better job in this area.”

But Duncan’s hope has already been blunted. Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-Minn.) highlighted 80 existing teacher-quality programs and said it would be imprudent to pour more money into programs that may be inefficient or duplicative. “Republicans share the president’s goal of getting better teachers in the classroom,” asserted Alexandra Sollberger, a spokeswoman for Kline. “However, we also value transparency and efficient use of taxpayer resources.”

“A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified 82 existing teacher quality programs,” Sollberger explained further. “Many of the programs overlap, and little effort has been made to determine whether the programs were actually effective.”

In effect, the Obama administration’s latest endeavor is, in a broader sense, an effort to pump more federal dollars into an education system that has seen explosive spending growth over the past few decades. And despite a progressive incline in education spending, student achievement has not only remained flat, in some areas it has declined.

In a January 2011 article, Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, reported on the federal government’s ever-expanding role in education and how its presence in the sector is only “stuffing donuts into an already obese system”: 

Federal elementary and secondary education spending has risen mightily since the early 1970s, when Washington first started immersing itself in education. In 1970, according to the federal Digest of Education Statistics, Uncle Sam spent an inflation-adjusted $31.5 billion on public K-12 education. By 2009 that had ballooned to $82.9 billion.

On a per-pupil basis, in 1970 the feds spent $435 per student. By 2006 — the latest year with available data — it was $1,015, a 133 percent increase. And it's not like state and local spending was dropping: Real, overall, per-pupil spending rose from $5,593 in 1970 to $12,463 in 2006, and today we beat almost every other industrialized nation in education funding.

“What do we have to show for this?” McCluskey said. First is an expansion in public-school employees, with pupil-to-staff ratios close to halving between 1969 and 2007. “Not coincidentally,” he added, “these same people politick powerfully for ever more spending and against reforms that will challenge their bloated monopoly. They also routinely defeat efforts to hold them accountable for results.” 

And what has billions of dollars in lobbying delivered to the U.S. education system? McCluskey concludes:

This constant feeding of special interests is why we've gotten zilch in the outcome that really matters — learning. Since the early 1970s, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the "Nation's Report Card" — have been utterly stagnant for 17-year-olds, our schools' "final products." In 1973 the average math score was 304 (out of 500). In 2008 it was just 306. In reading, the 1971 average was 285. In 2008 it was up a single point, hitting 286.

Too, the plan flies in the face of teacher claims that teachers are not the problem. For years teachers have been saying that unmotivated students and uninvolved parents are the problem — and there is truth to this: Asian kids in American schools typically do very well on international math tests, so the opportunity to learn is already available to most kids who want to learn. But it's also true that almost anyone can teach good students, while it takes a very good teacher to motivate and teach poor students.

The problem with this plan, like so many other plans to fix education, is that the plan does nothing to get rid of poor administrators, who often emphasize unproductive school activities such as "group learning"; it does nothing to weed out unmotivated, poor teachers; and it does not allow school choice so that students may go to schools that have top-notch teachers and administrators, thereby putting pressure on all schools to get rid of dead weight. This plan, if initiated — like so many others — is destined to fail.

 

5 comments

  • Comment Link REMant Saturday, 21 July 2012 17:38 posted by REMant

    We definitely need better educators, but I doubt the Fed'l govt is the place to find them, because I'm not sure they would recognize one if they saw him.

  • Comment Link Jamise Bailey Thursday, 19 July 2012 22:06 posted by Jamise Bailey

    Throwing money we do not have at educators who know nothing, because they were taught nothing, makes about as much sense as throwing money into the toilet. Get rid of all the useless "administrative costs" better known as the NEA, which only collects a substantial paycheck and does Nothing to improve our children's education. Get rid of all textbooks printed after 1920, update them with true history, math and honest to goodness English reading/writing tutorials.Give our schools/parents coporal punishments rights to reprimand unruley children again Then go back to the original 3r's, demand actual accomplishment of academics before passing a child to the next level and maybe, just maybe our country can again excell when it comes to scholastic accomplishments.

  • Comment Link R Jensen Thursday, 19 July 2012 21:42 posted by R Jensen

    Basically, these people have been poisoning our children at least since 1906 (see quote below), and now we should expect that their expensive unconstitutional scheme will cure what ails our dumbed-down students?

    In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters,
    musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

    "Occasional Letter Number One" (1906), Rockefeller General Education Board, as quoted in John Taylor Gatto's book "An Underground History of American Education"

    What their fathers and mothers were "doing in an imperfect way" was ridding themselves of their stubborn self-sufficient lifestyle and becoming entirely dependent on these statists who know so well how our lives ought to go.

  • Comment Link Michael Oberndorf, RPA Thursday, 19 July 2012 17:06 posted by Michael Oberndorf, RPA

    This not about money or education. It is about creating a virtual Ministry of Indoctrination, that will brainwash our children from pre-K on. The Marxist and neo-fascist left have always wanted to completely control "education," and this is the next big step in the plan to do just that. They must be exposed for the lying radicals that they are, and stopped by whatever means necessary.

  • Comment Link Robert LaLanne Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:39 posted by Robert LaLanne

    Throwing more money at things is all politicians understand. I'm not impressed with what and how subjects are being taught in today's schools. There seems to be a rush to get through as much subject matter as possible instead of drilling to make sure the students understand and retain what they are being taught. My Grandchildren are being "taught" subjects two to three years ahead of when I was in school in the 1950's. Our schools are trying to accomplish in 9 months a year what other countries schools are doing using 12 month school years. That is most likely the reason American students aren't considered up to par with other nations. Then there's the unnecessary politically correct and environmental BS piled on top of the rest of the cramming which is nothing but a distraction from the more important subjects.

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