President Barack Obama, long a proponent of education that will matter in a technology-heavy future, has set aside a portion of his budget to implement a national program that recognizes and rewards teachers that excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM — and provides funds to assist these teachers in delivering educational content.
The National STEM Master Teacher Corps will initially enroll 50 top-level educators and deploy them in 50 sites across the country. The plan is for the ranks to expand to more than 10,000 master teachers in four years. The program will cost $1 billion to create and fund; currently, Obama’s budget is being debated in Congress. The U.S. Department of Education will assist in facilitating the plan.
According to the White House, the master teachers will be classroom-based educators who are highly effective in improving learning outcomes, model outstanding teaching, and will also share their practices and strategies with their professional colleagues. Master teachers know and are deeply interested in their subject, care about improving their craft and inspire both their students and fellow teachers.
The selected teachers will make a four-year dedication to the Corps, and in exchange, will receive up to $20,000 in stipends on top of their base teacher pay. The selection process and the assignment of sites will begin after Congress acts on Obama’s budget.
“If America is to compete for the jobs and industry of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.”
Several reports show America is lagging behind other developed countries in terms of both teaching STEM-related coursework and producing students — future workers — who are immersed in the field.
Education-based organization Getting Smart recently released a study which found that globally, America ranks 31st in science and 23rd in math. The report also shows that more than 67 percent of physics students are being instructed by teachers who don’t have a physics degree. Nationwide, 61 percent of students are enrolled in chemistry classes that are led by a teacher who doesn’t have a chemistry degree.
The numbers are similar for biology — 49 percent — and math, where more than 31 percent of all students are being taught that core knowledge by a non-degreed instructor.
The STEM Education Coalition — a group of more than 50 science and engineering organizations — recently asked the Appropriations Committee of the United States Senate to support legislation that would strengthen STEM-related learning.
“Empowering U.S. schools to provide our children with the STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills they will need to land the best, most innovative — and highest paying and most secure — jobs of the future is a critical aspect in supporting an American economic recovery,” read the coalition’s position letter, in part. “We hope you will maintain STEM education as a continued bipartisan national priority, even in this time of great fiscal concern.”
Congressman Chaka Fattah, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, has long been a proponent of increasing funding for STEM-related programs and supports Obama’s drive to increase American technological acumen.
“These master teachers — 10,000 strong within a few years — will be inspiring and shaping the next generation of young scientists and engineers,” said Fattah, who recently addressed more than 50 young attendees at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. “President Obama’s innovative plan will help our nation win the future in science, technology and innovation.”