National Data | The Physics Of Teacher Shortages
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March 25, 2006, 04:00 AM
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We`ve seen several recent articles bemoaning the lack of qualified math and science teachers and the role this plays in American kids` (allegedly) low international test scores in these subjects. Among the factoids: "…40 percent of the nation`s middle school math teachers do not have the equivalent of an undergraduate minor in math." [Improving math Ed—Bush right about that But where are the teachers coming from? Jonathan David Farley, San Francisco Chronicle, March 12, 2006]

Baltimore, New York and Las Vegas have "solved" the problem by importing math and science teachers from the Philippines and Jamaica. In total U.S. schools hire about 10,000 teachers a year from foreign countries, according to the National Education Association.

What? You didn`t know that the Philippines and Jamaica were hotbeds of math and science expertise?

They aren`t.

Wannabe teachers in those countries flood those fields expressly to satisfy the America`s demand for cheap, exploitable teachers—a scandal detailed by Joe Guzzardi.

 Fact is, the teacher shortage may reflect the intellectual shortcomings of individuals attracted to the teaching profession both here and abroad. It is, as correspondent Tom Shuford tells us, "a bell curve phenomenon" rather than a mere failure to "produce" enough math and science teachers.

As evidence, Shuford points to the disparity in Graduate Record Examination scores for education, science, and math majors. Here are the combined average combined math and verbal scores of those tested between 2001 and 2004:

  • Education: 984


  • Physics and astronomy: 1272


  • Mathematics: 1235


  • Biology: 1123

You`d expect math or science majors to outscore education majors in math. But their verbal scores are also higher. [Table 1.]  Physics and astronomy majors, for example, scored 534 in verbal while elementary and secondary education majors scored 443 and 486, respectively.

Implication: Scientists and math professionals not only grasp the subject matter better than professional teachers, they may be able to communicate it more effectively.

It all comes down to money—and not much of that, as it turns out.

The average physicist makes $57,670 per year. The average secondary education teacher makes $44,430.

Multiply the difference —$13,240—by 10,000, and you get $132.4 million. That`s a mere 0.03 percent of the roughly $450 billion spent on K-12 education each year.

But paying premium salaries to attract the best of breed is impossible in our creaking public education empire. One reason: the inmates have taken over the asylum –the teacher unions have a death grip on the system, as detailed by VDARE.COM`s Peter Brimelow in his book Worm in the Apple. And unions believe in collective action, not merit pay or anything else that might give teachers the idea they can make it on their own.

Another possibility: the average GRE score of education administrators—the folks who control the public education monopoly—is only 950, also putting them on the left side of the bell curve.

Once again, a bad public policy – in this case, our socialized K-12 education industry – is being propped up by another – in this case, profligate immigration

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.