STEM Beats - teachers

Idaho Uses STEMworks to Fund STEM Professional Development

August 23, 2016

Does your program offer professional development for STEM teachers? Are you ready to help teachers in Idaho? If so, the Idaho STEM Action Center might have a grant for you.

The Idaho STEM Action Center is the latest partner in our efforts to help states identify and expand the nation's best STEM education programs. It will join leading STEM organizations in states like Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan in using CTEq's rigorous STEMworks review process to find programs that are most likely to make a difference for America's youth.

As states gain more control over their education policies and purse strings, STEMworks helps them make the best decisions for their young people.

Here is the text of the Idaho announcement:

Idaho STEM Action Center announces grants for professional development programs

Change the Equation (CTEq) and the Idaho STEM Action Center are collaborating on an initiative to identify excellent teacher professional development programs in STEM. The STEM Action Center will recommend programs identified through this process for state professional development funds. Programs may apply for up to two years of funding: $75,000 in the first year and $50,000 in the second.

Apply before 3pm Mountain Time on October 4, 2016.

Programs must apply through CTEq’s STEMworks application portal. Reviewers will judge applications against Change the Equation’s rigorous Design Principles for effectiveness as well as additional state-specific criteria to assess programs’ readiness to address needs specific to Idaho.

Programs that meet the Design Principles will appear in CTEq’s nationally-recognized STEMworks honor roll of effective STEM education programs. Businesses leaders, funders, and STEM advocates regularly tap the STEMworks database for high-quality STEM programs most likely to help maximize their impact on STEM education.

Programs that meet both the STEMworks threshold and Idaho’s state-specific requirements will be considered for state funding

Register for an Informational Webinar [link pending] on STEMworks and the Application Process

On September 2 at 2:00 Mountain Time, CTEq and the Idaho STEM Action Center will host a free one-hour webinar to introduce prospective applicants to the application process.

Visit the STEMworks website to read about the individual STEMworks programs included and more about the database itself.

Tags: STEMworks, teachers

New Study: Lower Teacher Pay Linked to Lower Math Skills

July 27, 2016

If we want better teachers, then we need better incentives to teach. That is one big takeaway from a new study of teachers’ skills in 23 developed nations. Here are the study’s findings in a nutshell:

  1. U.S. teachers test lower in math than teachers in 18 of 23 developed countries. In literacy, U.S. teachers performed better than in math, testing below their peers in 9 out of the 23 countries.
  2. U.S. teachers perform worse in math than their college-educated peers in the United States, and they are in the middle of the pack in literacy.
  3. Teachers’ math skills influence their students’ performance.
  4. U.S. teachers get paid much less than their college-educated peers, even when you take their work experience, skills, and gender into account. In fact, U.S. teachers suffered a larger wage penalty than teachers in all 22 other countries.
  5. Opportunities for women to take jobs outside of teaching significantly affect the skills of teachers—particularly female teachers. In other words, teaching can no longer benefit from skilled women who once had few other professional choices.

At a time when the STEM jobs pay high salaries to those with strong math skills, it can be hard to attract more people with strong math skills to the classroom. That problem, in turn, depresses U.S. students’ performance in math. Higher salaries or other incentives might help right the ship. So can programs like UTeach, which encourages STEM majors to pursue teaching.

That said, we should not turn our backs on the millions of committed teachers we already have. Professional development programs like Intel Math can boost teachers' grasp of math, even if they came to the job with wobbly skills.

(Hat tip: Education Week.)

Tags: math, teachers

Linda Rosen: From the Other Side of the Classroom

May 6, 2016

Let me turn the tables on Teacher Appreciation week for a moment to express appreciation to my students who challenged, delighted, inspired and ultimately helped me become a better high school math teacher. I remain humbled by my students who made me realize that I still had much to learn despite my degrees and accumulated experience.

There was my seventh-grader, so advanced that he came to the high school for his math classes. Never mind that he had a deep understanding of mathematics and an instinctive inquisitiveness that put him at the top of class despite the age difference. His parents were getting a divorce that year and, in his anger about the situation, he stopped caring about school, about math, about most everything other than being surly. Nothing had prepared me, a newly-minted teacher, to know how to reach him and help him separate his incredible mathematical talent from his inner turmoil. In time, he regained control over one portion of his life—his mathematical achievement. In the meantime, I witnessed first-hand the profound impact students’ personal lives can have on their learning.

There was the young woman who diligently came in after school on a regular basis for individualized tutoring on her math homework. Though I was unable to help her earn a decent grade in the course, she thanked me during a chance meeting some forty years later for never giving up on her, never making her feel inadequate, always looking for new ways to explain concepts, and never tiring of trying to help her understand.

Then there was my tenth grader, a gentle, hard-of-hearing soul who was adept at lip reading. “Just make certain he can always see your face,” was the extent of the advice school administrators gave me. No mention about where we should seat him so that he could read lips of his classmates around the room. There was nothing in my teacher preparation or professional development courses that I could draw on, and no observer to help me adjust my teaching style to help this earnest young man literally read my lips. To make matters worse, it was a geometry class with blackboards on three walls. There was lots of moving around as students and I pointed to this or that on a blackboard. To this day, I send occasional telepathic apologies to him knowing that I didn’t serve him as well as I would have liked. But he never betrayed frustration or disappointment, just a dogged determination to do the best that he could.

There are many more stories I could tell. But I hope that these three illustrate that those in one of the hardest jobs in the world need support as well as appreciation! 

Tags: teachers

Passion R Cheek: Pushing Beyond Your Possible

May 5, 2016

When I sat down to think about great teachers who impacted my life, one instantly came to mind. And maybe it’s because I never told her how much she impacted me when I still could.

High school was a culture shock. I grew up in a majority black neighborhood and went to public schools with primarily black children for most of my academic career. But I was always a bright, overachieving student. My parents thought I might even be bright enough to get accepted to The Potomac School, an independent K-12 school in McLean, VA. Maybe I should have felt proud to attend one of the top ranking private schools in the nation. But I didn’t. I just felt frustrated that so few people of color taught or attended school there and I struggled to adapt socially.

With 10th grade came the apex of my discomfort attending a predominately white school and probably the zenith of general teenaged angst (apparently, I wore a lot of black). Historically, it’s also the hardest year academically at Potomac. And that’s when I met her. Mrs. Faye Kronisch taught my 10th grade English class. Her curriculum set the stage for each student to master persuasive essay writing through guided critical literature reading and analysis. I remember learning the ins and outs of Shakespearean sonnets, the elements of poems and prose, and the gothic and Romantic influences on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We’d end each unit of the syllabus with combinations of creative writing projects and persuasive essays based on our interpretation of the texts.

In the beginning, I struggled.  I always excelled in English but lost some confidence in my abilities after a year at Potomac. It felt like all the other children had some secret storage shelter of knowledge that I didn’t. Maybe Mrs. Kronisch could feel that from me, so she pushed me even harder. A fierce editor, Mrs. Kronisch made sure each paper came back more red than the last as her list of demands grew. I didn't even know that many types of errors existed. I remember that I’d fix one thing she asked me to work on just for her to ding me on a new thing (or three!).

Possibly sensing my frustration, Mrs. Kronisch held me after class one day. She acknowledged that I might be facing challenges outside her classroom. Then she told me I could still do better in that masterful way that neither praises nor offends. She made sure to mention her years teaching in a school not far from my home as if to say I know where you come from and it doesn’t matter. Mrs. Kronisch didn’t let me use excuses. She wasn’t going to ease up or feel sorry for me. And she helped me realize my ethnicity and my socioeconomic status could be crutches or propellers.  Propelling forward in her class—and in life—wasn’t about natural ability or secret storage shelters of knowledge.  It was about choice. If I worked harder I would see the pay off.

She embodied our school motto labor omnia vincit or work conquers all and convinced her students to do the same. I know I wasn’t the only student she pushed but I am honored that she believed in me enough to do so. Under her watchful eye, I performed wonderfully in 10th grade English and kept that determined work ethic for the rest of high school (I also started wearing brighter colors).

Thank you to Mrs. Kronisch (1950-2010) and all the teachers like her that push you beyond your possible.

Photo courtesy of The Potomac School.

Tags: teachers

Deborah Vandergrift: An Important Teacher

May 4, 2016

When I was in school, math was not my favorite subject.  While I stayed in the math honors track, I often struggled when learning concepts and sometimes dreaded math class.

Things turned around in junior high school, where I had a terrific algebra teacher named Dr. Zachary – he asked us to call him “Doc.”  He’d often have us work through a proof as a class, with everyone contributing suggestions.  To facilitate, he’d use an overhead projector with a scroll of cellophane; he’d write each step in the proof then scroll forward for the next blank space.

Sometimes we’d lose our way a little and he’d have to scroll back to the beginning to remind us of the original problem, saying, “Remember Alice?”  None of us had any idea what he meant by that, so he tried to explain it to us.  Ultimately, the day before Thanksgiving break, he simply demonstrated.  He played a song called “Alice’s Restaurant,” a song written and performed by Arlo Guthrie and released in 1967.

The song is a funny, folksy war protest that’s delivered in the form of a rambling story that starts one Thanksgiving.  It meanders through about eighteen minutes, beginning, “This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, and it’s about Alice… and the restaurant…,” and ends with a rallying call to join the anti-war movement. The story then proceeds to go far off course from its initial subject, and somewhere in the middle Guthrie references Alice, pauses, and says, “Remember Alice?  This is a song about Alice.”

Somehow, through all of this, I began to think of algebra proofs as stories.  Thinking of each problem with a beginning, middle, and end really resonated with me and algebra became fun!  That new perspective combined with Doc’s wry sense of humor and zest for his work made me look forward to algebra class all that year.  I use the problem solving skills I learned in algebra just about every day.

And every Thanksgiving, my family and I listen to “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Tags: teachers