High School Science and Mathematics in Maryland: A Discussion

MR. GEORGE LIEBMANN (moderator):

Roughly 10 of 35 respondents to Calvert’s survey of public college science and math professors referred in one way or another to the problem of recruiting and retaining qualified high school science teachers. The other comments were also very interesting. It is rather commonly put forth as part of an agenda for the improvement of science education that what is needed in the high schools are more and better computers.

The number of commentators who made that suggestion in our survey was zero. Indeed there are six of the commentators who expressed the view that the principal shortage in high school science classes was not of computers but of number two pencils. They decried the excessive use of calculators in high school science. There were four commentators who observed that the relevancy of science needed to be made clearer to their classes. There were four who observed that they were less concerned with the adequacy, or even the fact of instruction in calculus, than with the inadequate preparation of high school students in algebra, and even basic algebra. There were three, all writing about Baltimore City, who decried the practice of social promotion.

There were a scattering of other suggestions that there be more mandatory years of science, that discipline in the high schools be improved, that there be uniform or objective standards for science education. That there be even greater or less use of standardized tests. That high school science teachers should have some para professionals to help them with grading examinations. That there be more written exercises and drills in high school science. That physics be a mandated course. That the preparation of high school science teachers be improved; instead of emphasis being placed on education courses, that more emphasis be placed on subject matter.

There was also a further suggestion that purely research programs are inadequate preparation for high school science teachers. There were a couple of respondents who urged a sort of Master of Arts or Master of Science in Teaching program. It is a fact that in most of the counties in the state, and indeed in most of the public schools throughout this country, there is no extra pay for teachers in the scarce disciplines. The result of this is set forth in Maryland in a very objective way, not by any centrist or conservative think-tank, but in the statistics published each year by the State Department of Education, in the annual report on the Christa McAuliffe scholarships, which requires the Department of Education to set forth each year the estimated supply of teachers in each discipline and the estimated demand for teachers in each discipline. What those reports have revealed, year after year, is the dramatic shortage of qualified applicants to be science teachers in the Maryland schools.

The staffing projections for the year2002-2003, for example, show that there is need for 64 new teachers of Physics in Maryland high schools. The projected staffing pool is a pool of 31. There is need for97 new teachers of Chemistry, the projected pool is 64. There is need for50 new teachers of Computer Science, the projected staffing pool is 17.

A similar situation exists with respect to certain types of special education. There is need for 114 teachers of the severely handicapped, the estimated staffing pool is 8. There is need for 16 teachers of the blind, the estimated staffing pool is 3. The reason in each instance is the same. These disciplines require extra study, extra time for study, fewer people study them, and those that do study them can command greater rewards in other places than in our public school systems.

By contrast, there are disciplines where there is not nearly so much pressure when it comes to hiring. For example, there is need for2538 teachers of elementary education, the projected staffing pool is 3587. There is need for 613 early childhood teachers, the projected staffing pool is 858.In social science and history, there is at least an even balance of available teachers and the required number of teachers. In mathematics and the physical sciences, chemistry and physics, there is a shortage year after year after year. The reason little or nothing is done about this is the phenomenon of the single salary schedule in teachers union contracts.

I did a study some years ago of the twenty-four teachers union contracts in Maryland. At that time, there were only three contracts which on their face allowed the school boards to give extra pay to teachers in scarce disciplines. The most specific provision was and is in Talbot county which allows ten additional years of seniority credit to teachers of scarce disciplines. That is a worthwhile difference of twelve or thirteen thousand dollars a year. The common response to this problem on the part of the Department of Education, the Governor, and others has taken the form simply of proposals to give small scholarships to graduating seniors, or sometimes undergraduates in Maryland colleges who are willing to commit to two or three years of science teaching.

The scholarships, as an incentive, are of rather dubious value because the sad truth is that once people commence teaching, they begin to accumulate children and mortgages. If they are not being paid as well as they can be paid in other disciplines, they tend to fall out of the system. There is much more that can be said about that subject, but I think it is appropriately said by persons with greater experience in these matters than I.

We have here today three speakers: Dr. Donald Langenburg, who is a professor of physics and the former Chancellor of the University of Maryland System; Dr. John Toll, another professor of physics and former Chancellor of the University of Maryland at College Park, current President of Washington College, Chestertown; and Mr. Peter Martin, Chief Executive Officer of Provident Bank and the Chairman of the Greater Baltimore Education Committee, which undertook a study of this and related problems several years ago and who will address this problem from the perspective of business and industry.

DR. DONALD LANGENBURG: . The Calvert Institute report that you have before you paints a pretty visible picture. It’s a picture that is buttressed by a host of recent reports which describes a national situation. In one of them, by an organization called BEST, or Building Engineering and Science Talent, the question was asked, “Is the United States developing the human capital to remain the World’s most productive economy while at the same time meeting a formidable new national security threat”. The answer was a resounding no. We are not. The title of the report was “The Quiet Crisis”.

In my opinion it really is a crisis. Unfortunately it has been all too quiet on the public scene. It doesn’t mean that a great many education leaders, some political leaders, and business leaders have not noted it and have not begun to attack the problem in one way or another. But the fact is that it’s not generally recognized as a serious problem that really must be dealt with. You might wonder why if some folks have been trying to deal with it, why we haven’t already solved the problem? In my opinion, the simple answer is that its origins are so deeply rooted in our societal circumstances and attitudes that we have thus far failed to summon the political courage and will to do what needs to be done.

Let me start with a couple of facts about high school math and science, in particular. We do not, in this country, generally demand that all students have intensive and extensive exposure to math and science all the way from elementary school through high school and on into college. Nor do we demand that all students meet the high standards of performance in math and science at every step of the way. As you heard from George, there is a serious, well documented, persistent and long-time shortage of fully qualified math and science teachers, especially at the high school level. As a result, a shockingly high proportion of the teachers who teach those subjects to students, are not really qualified to teach them. That proportion may be a quarter or a third across the nation in all schools and it probably constitutes the majority of teachers in schools serving poor and minority students. As I wrote in a recent Sun op-ed piece, you can’t really expect our students to learn what they are not taught or are taught poorly.

So that brings the focus to the point that I think is the key point, the critical point here. That is teachers. We’ve got to have more and better teachers. To do that, in my impression or in my view, we’ve got to change our attitudes towards teachers. We tend to think of teachers as indistinguishable inter-changeable cogs in our school machinery.

That attitude is evident when we assign a teacher to teach science in high school who isn’t fully qualified to do that. One teacher is just like another, any teacher will do. That attitude is evident in the fact that there is no established hierarchy of status and rank for teachers in our schools. A brand new college graduate just beginning a teaching career — her first year in the classroom is called, what? A teacher. After thirty-five years of distinguished service that person retires and is called, what? A teacher. Even teachers themselves seem to share this attitude. That they are indistinguishable and inter-changeable.

As witness the fact that their organizations very often take the position that all teachers should be paid alike with the only significant basis for higher salary being advancing age. I think it’s self-evidently true that a teacher is not a teacher, is not a teacher. Like the practitioners of any other trade, they vary greatly in capacity and capability and special skills. We need to acknowledge and recognize that. Some of you may have bristled a little bit when I said “trade” and not “profession”. That was deliberate. I think it was intended to focus our attention on a very important fact. We do not now treat teachers like true professionals. To do so would require that we do three things: provide working environments suitable to professionals; pay them like professionals and demand they behave and perform like professionals.

Each one of those merits an essay of its own but let me just make a few remarks about each one of them. Work environments. Professionals generally work in work environments in which they can focus on performing the complex and challenging functions for which they were educated and trained. Others provide necessary ancillary support services. If you were to visit the University of Maryland Hospital cafeteria, for example, just up the street, you would not find a professor of medicine on duty as cafeteria monitor. Teachers, however, are generally expected to do it all. Including such things, sometimes, as purchasing and personally paying for basic school supplies. Most people would agree that teachers ought to be paid more. Beyond the end of that simple sentence lies a vast wasteland of disagreement about ways and means.

My take on that issue is this; let me start with the observation made in this report that the starting salaries of high school math and science teachers are about half the starting teachers in non-teaching positions open to them. Chemistry graduates, for example, from the University of Maryland, College Park, looking out at the world might say “Gee, I really would like to teach this subject, I love it. Here’s the starting salary. Or I can get a low-level starting job for Du Pont and I’ll get twice as much”. It’s hardly a mystery why there is a shortage of high school math and science teachers. So let’s think a little bit together about a salary model that I used to think about that could deal with that discrepancy and might solve some other problems as well. Let’s suppose, in this model, that the starting salaries for science teachers in high school are roughly comparable with what they could get in the business world. Which is to say about twice what they now get in teaching. These are teachers in high demand and short supply. They’re not the only ones, there are other as George mentioned. Special education teachers, teachers with special skills aimed at specially disadvantaged students. They ought to be in the same boat.

Lets suppose their salaries starting and beyond were about twice what they are now. Suppose you agree that in low demand, high supply areas for teachers that are just barely adequate for their jobs really ought not to be getting paid twice what they are now. They ought to be getting paid about what they are now. So this leads to a salary model in which at any given stage of seniority, we have teachers in our schools whose salaries are aimed to about a factor of two. From something like they now are, to about twice that. Or roughly speaking, teachers salaries, on average, are about 50% higher than they now are. Several years ago I described that model to a Baltimore business man who said “That’s wonderful. That would be great, but we can’t afford it”. I didn’t know what it would cost. So I went and did a typical business back-of-the-envelope estimate of what it would cost. The result was this. Nationally that model would take about one hundred billion dollars. That is a big number. It’s a lot of money. But it’s only six tenths of one percent of the gross domestic product. It’s roughly equivalent to a five or six percent increase in health care costs. Which is to say, we could afford it. We could afford it rather easily if only we had the political will and intestinal fortitude to do it. Where would the money come from? I think the answer is perfectly obvious. Read my lips. Raise tax revenues.

This is not a problem we can address with Bingo games and bake sales. It’s a problem requiring a substantial, not an exorbitant, but a substantially increased investment in our schools. We simply have got to pony up and do it. Now we all know that doing that is politically impossible. It can’t be done. But about eighteen months ago, the Gallup organization did a national poll in which they asked relevant questions. What they found is that the majority of those polls, a substantial majority, would support tax increases for the purpose of increasing teachers salaries if the teachers were held accountable for the performance of their students.

Here in Maryland you might say what would it cost us to adopt that model? Well, based on the fact that we have about 2% of the national population it would cost us about 2% of 100billion dollars, or about 2 billion dollars. Again, that is a lot of money, but Maryland has two major advantages. First, many of our political leaders are already committed to support the recommendations of the Thornton Commission, which calls for substantially increased state support for our schools. 1.3 billion dollars. If our local jurisdictions would come up with some counterpart funds on their own, we can do it. We could do it, if only we chose to do it.

If we were to do that, our teacher shortages in high demand areas and our problems in retaining the very best teachers we have probably would disappear, as would our problem with under-qualified teachers. We could attract the best teachers nationwide. Indeed a recent New York Times article suggested that New York City has just done that, within a year. New York City received a dictum from the state regents in the state of New York saying no more unqualified teachers in your most demanding schools. You can’t hire them. You’ve got to hire only qualified teachers. Guess what? They sucked it up. They substantially increased salaries and the shortage of qualified teachers in New York City disappeared practically overnight.

The last factor: teacher performance.

The people’s responses to that Gallup poll put their fingers on a quid pro quo that I think is essential for building political support for paying teachers better. It’s also a crucial element of training teachers like professionals. Teachers should not be told exactly what to do every day. Or how to do it. But like other professionals they ought to have substantial flexibility in what they do. At the same time they should be held strictly accountable for the results of their work. In my view there is only one indicator that really matters. That is the gains in performance that students make under a teacher’s tutelage. Not the performance, the gains.

What does the teacher do to increment the performance of his or her students? How would we do that? I won’t go into it in any great detail, but we’ll simply say that data systems are now in existence in many states, Tennessee, for example, that would allow the assessment of the performance of teachers by looking at how their students gain in performance over time and class to class. It can be done. The new federal elementary and secondary education act which mandates testing annually for students in grades three through ten, I think, would provide the data that would make it possible to do that. Indeed one jurisdiction in Tennessee, Chattanooga, is currently basing teachers salaries on that specific performance measure. One last plea, we habitually address problems like these by puttering around the edges. This one, I think, we’ve got to get at its roots. That is going to take substantial human and financial resources, as well as more determination and courage than our leaders typically display. But I think for our nation there is no alternative. The consequences of not doing so are too horrible to contemplate.

MR. PETER MARTIN: I’ll do the best I can to present the business perspective. I am Chairman of Provident Bank and Chairman of the GBC Education Committee. The question might arise, why do I care about the subject? From a personal point of view, I do care about it because good public schools, and a strong mother I might add, have allowed me, as well as many other Americans, to live the American dream. I fervently support good public schools. I also still have one child of student age and five grandchildren already. I can only subsidize so many private school tuitions despite achieving the American dream.

Second is citizenship. Good public schools, or good schools in general, are essential to maintain our democracy and our social system. I believe that good schools, good education, are a big part of the answer for economic development and solving many of the social problems that we deal with in our times.

Thirdly, let me continue by describing my business perspective. I am Chairman of a five billion dollar bank, five billion in assets, headquartered in Baltimore, doing business in Maryland and Northern Virginia. We have 1700employees and over 100 branches. Our employees consistently give Provident good grades as an employer. What differentiates Provident? We make loans, we take deposits, we offer investments, we offer cash management, and we offer the same products as every other financial institution. So what differentiates Provident, and we are very successful, is the people and the training of the people. If I were to tell you that we have 40%turnover, you’d say how can a good employer have40% turnover? How can you function with that rate of turnover? We’ll tell you that the general turnover rate for banks is 50 – 55%. That is largely because banks tend to be a first employer or early employer for a lot of people who are at the entry level.

If you would examine a typical bank, you would find a very stable base of employees who have been employed for 3 – 35 years, and you would find a segment which would include tellers and some operational areas where employees learn how to do a job, and how to be employed. After which some stay and others move on for many reasons such as pressure of the job, inability to do the job, hold-ups, which is an increasing problem for us, or opportunities for advancement. This obviously exacerbates our training needs.

I mention that we have 1700 employees. During 2002 we have had 75 course offerings, which offered 837 sessions to 8500 participants. Obviously many employees take multiple courses. That is a challenge for us as a business. Provident has processed 2,435 applications for CSR or teller in 2002. 1,351 failed the basic assessment. We hired 142, we have a future interest in another 40, and we are presently interviewing 158. We have already completed a screening and interview process before training. Almost without exception, every training class has several people who need some fundamental math refresher. This is provided in extra sessions beyond what I mentioned. What do we mean by fundamentals? I asked my training folks and they listed basic money counting; counting by fives and tens; understanding of basic math; multiplication, division, adding, subtracting; requirements for understanding the basic concepts of debit and credit. They also lack recognition math competencies. This is not calculating in one’s head, but understanding enough about basic math to see an answer pop up on a calculator and recognize it must be wrong because of the number of decimals, the actual size of the answer, big or small. This tips off the person that they must have keyed in the wrong numbers, hit a wrong function button, or transposed numbers. Again, it doesn’t mean they calculated the answer to the decimal in their head, but that they recognize an obviously incorrect answer. They need that capability for loss prevention, settling, giving correct change.

Third area, basic algebra. This is a basic factor in sales and service. We see specific problems with practical application of understanding loan to value. If you are dealing with a customer you have to know what the value of the asset is that you are lending against and the percentage of the loan you are going to make against that asset. A lot of folks really struggle with this basic concept. Percentages, practical application, discussing amortization schedules, compounding annual rate versus annual yield, which seems to be a difficult concept.

These are basic math functions that one might presume high school students to be able to calculate, but our folks often find instructors in the role of basic math teachers instead of being able to assume certain basic math competencies. Beyond that we often find an inability to do math without a calculator and a lack of fundamental reasoning and problem solving skills in some of our entry-level employees that solid math and science grounding might provide. Again an example is loan to value calculation, which is pretty simple.

By coincidence on Saturday I do have an11 year old sixth grader, and I was helping him with his study for a math test. These are the concepts that were in his homework for what he was studying for. I have to tell you, he was pretty good at doing it with a pencil and paper. I was pleased to see that he didn’t know how to do it with a calculator. His test was going to be with a calculator so I was teaching him how to use a calculator.

Now go to the Calvert report. 35% of secondary level math classes are taught by someone lacking even a minor in math or a math related field. 49% in high poverty schools, 70% in high poverty, high minority schools. 66% of the departing science and math teachers cite poor pay. If you have not read the report, I suggest that you do read it. Assuming its accuracy, it paints a clear picture of a shortage of math and science teachers as compared to other disciplines, as well as the attractive alternatives for candidates in the private sector. It also repeats the usual comparisons of US high schoolers’ math and science performance compared to other countries. Not a great picture.

Back to the candidate’s capabilities in terms of being able to tell if a number is reasonable, even if these numbers are off by 25%, it’s still an ugly picture. This brings me to a point. Certainly well intended people can have different points of view. I believe in free markets operating within a system of democratic capitalism. Others may have equally strong beliefs in more controlled markets. Often things reach a point, however, where a clear consensus emerges that a situation is so egregious that it demands action. A dramatic example is obviously September 11, 2001. It’s less dramatic but I believe that that given the scarceness of science and math teachers and the poor preparation demonstrated by many of our high school graduates, a very serious situation confronts our economy and our society. It is in the interest of public education that a consensus should emerge that more market driven compensation is essential within our public school system.

DR. JOHN TOLL: The Calvert Report gives top priority to the fact that we must do much more in the recruitment, training and merit awards for outstanding science and math teachers. I would totally agree with that. I think there is a shortage; the shortage is going to get worse unless we do something about it. There are many able teachers now in the schools but many of them are going to retire. Particularly, we recognize that many of them are going to leave and that we have to now really recruit hard to see that their places are filled. It’s a shortage that I think will actually get worse unless we do something dramatic about it.

I would agree it’s not only enough to recruit the teachers but we must keep them there, to make their positions desirable and to help them with additional training and support as they’re trying to improve. The National Science Foundation and others have many programs to try to help improve teaching. They’ve been fine programs in many ways. But again, totally inadequate to the scale that we need. We are not reaching nearly enough of the teachers. With the turnover rates that have been mentioned, we have to do a great deal to make these training programs more important. Secondly, in recruiting teachers, I think we have to allow for multiple pathways.

People will enter the profession in many different ways. Some people will come already well prepared with scientific training. Maybe they are retiring from a scientific career. Maybe they’ve been in industry and decide that they really like to teach. That is what they’d most like to do. We should make it possible for people to come in unconventional ways. I agree they need some training but some quick training given in an early stage will allow them to enter by alternate pathways.

If we’re to meet this shortage, we have to be imaginative in finding many different ways of attracting talent. Most of all we must look for talent. People who are good as teachers. People who understand science and know how to convey it to the students. That can be tested rather quickly. See how good they are in conveying it and being understood by others. Where someone needs help they can be given help and you can see whether or not they make the product. I think the emphasis should be put on letting people qualify in whatever way they can to meet the proper standards. I think the only way we’re going to meet this shortage is if we look at a variety of different pathways.

I also agree that a major issue is the issue of pay. Anyone who is qualified to be a science teacher can get much higher salaries, rather than entering as a science teacher, by going direct into industry or some other production. I admit that compensation as a science teacher provides stability in the career, as long as you do a reasonably good job you know you’ve got assurance there. Opportunities for a steady career which means some people will prefer it over a chancier career, perhaps. On the whole, we’ve got to be more competitive with salary than at the present time. To base salary on merit , is a very good idea. We have to work hard to enhance pay. There are various ways of doing it.

What has been true is that school systems through union agreements or otherwise simply are unable to vary pay. Perhaps you can compensate by additional pay in the summertime, when science teachers are getting additional training or doing additional work. You can find other ways to enhance the salaries. Some of that has already been done. I think we should look at any way we canto break this particular obstacle because certainly getting good science teachers is most important. I have a friend that wrote a paper and he sent it to me recently. Its title is “It’s the teacher, stupid”. That is, what we need to get really good teaching in the schools is to concentrate much more on the competence of the teachers and their qualifications. That should be our major most important goal and one we should attack right away.

I think we also need to consider curriculum change. That is something that comes more slowly. You can’t just go in and change the curriculum of the school system overnight. But we have made changes in the past. The National Science Foundation and others supported efforts to improve the curricula in each of the science fields. I think they’ve done a good job but we need to do much more. I think we should be willing to consider new approaches to the teaching of science. I strongly recommend it. For example, at present virtually all high school students take biology first. They take a year of biology and then forget it. Then they take a year of chemistry and then forget it. Then they take a year of physics. What happens in the process is that students drop out. So very few of them get to the end and actually take the physics course. Science, like anything else, is something you learn and forget. Learn and forget, learn and forget, until finally you decide it would be easier if you remembered. We are like that, all human beings. We have to learn things again and again I think it’s important that we try to do all we can to help students get the necessary repetition. Beginning with simple concepts and then gradually extending their reach. It would be good if in the teaching of science we had a more unified approach, tried in many schools. I personally would think that you ought to begin at least in the seventh grade with teaching serious science and then gradually bring them up in a unified approach, level by level, teaching all of the sciences together and how they interconnect and increasing the complexity as strength of the students grows and as their general understanding of complexity grows.

That is the way they learn other subjects. For example, English writing they learn in class after class, learning the mistakes they make and gradually perfecting it year after year. We should approach our math and science courses in the same way. I think that would be highly desirable. I think another thing we should realize is that with computers now we have the ability to individualize learning to a much greater extent than ever before. That is wonderful.

We could always do it with individual tutors but now we can do it in a more economic way. You can give students some tutoring, but you can let students adjust the learning they do as they need, and get the repetition they need in order to master a subject. I think we should increasingly add curricula that allow variations in learning. Students who can quickly master a subject have enough repetition to be sure they’ve mastered it well, but then can move on quickly to other subjects and to more advanced levels. We should encourage that in every way, though it takes more flexibility to do this.

How do we explore these curriculum changes? I think one way to do it is to have schools that are willing to start an experiment, or willing to try it. In particular there have been some schools that do that and they mention in the Calvert Report schools like the Bronx High School of Science which has been a kind of a model for a new approach to teaching science. There, of course, they are highly selective in the students that get to go there. The result is those students do get a marvelous preparation and a high percentage of them go on to important careers. They take advantage of the education they’ve had. I think we should be willing to think about such variations within schools and among schools to allow for this greater variety of preparations. There are some schools now, we call them charter schools, which are independent as they’re started out. They can invent their own curricula. Granted they have to perform on statewide tests or regional-wide tests for the school district, but so long as they perform they’re allowed to approach it in whatever way they find best. I think that is great. They are an important innovation interesting new methods of teaching, new methods of presenting subjects.

I hope that that will allow us to look at more logical ways of organizing math and science curricula together, feeding them one to another. I’d also like to make a point that students remember things if they really get excited. If they’re fun, if they’re games. Teach it in a way that makes it fun, makes it a game. Of course, this is done in many ways in science programs. We have our national science competitions that students enter presenting science exhibits. They don’t have to compete just in sports. It’s good to have competition in the academic fields in a way that makes it enjoyable, makes it exciting. I think we should do that in any way we can.

Both math and science should offer many different levels of competition and make it fun for students, with science fairs, with other activities. Students will remember if they get excited about a subject. Much more than if they just learn it as a duty. It is very important to make the teaching exciting and the learning exciting for every student. I also think one of the biggest challenges for our society is its growing inequality. That is shown particularly in the inner cities where generally the population is poor, there are greater problems, and the families have less strong commitments to the school. As a result students just don’t learn as well.

So teachers find it more difficult to teach in the inner city, they are often paid less or not more, at least, than in the suburbs. They have a more difficult task. The cities, as was mentioned earlier, have a particular difficulty in getting qualified teachers. The majority of the science teachers will not have even the minimum of necessary education to teach the subject. I think we’ve got to work hard to do something to make the schools in the inner cities better. They must become a priority. We must try to make it a more equal society in every way we can. In the state of Maryland, for example, we give more state aid to a district which has less of a tax base for students.

We all have to work together to make the environment of the inner city like that of the rest of our society. It’s one of the biggest domestic challenges that we have as a society. We should concentrate on it in every way we can. I’m glad that the Calvert Institute is joining with others to make clear that we must give a priority to the teaching of math and science. I think if we all work together, we can make a real change. I look forward to the discussion of the individual points.

MR. LIEBMANN: It is our hope that this would not become yet another academic exercise or an addition to the many volumes of reports that are referred to by some of our speakers, and also referred to in our report. This is , as we all know, a gubernatorial election year. It was and is our hope to get both gubernatorial candidates to declare themselves on this problem. Both, as I understand it, have in some measure declared themselves. I recall approximately a year ago that Lt. Governor Townsend expressed concern about the inadequate compensation of science and math teachers. I also note that Congressman Ehrlichhas spoken of the need for a Thornton Two to infuse a qualitative element into the large amounts of funds that are proposed to be distributed by the Thornton report.

I should observe, (this is partly a reflection on costs which Dr. Langenburg referred to), that the numbers with respect to high school science and math taken by themselves are not quite as awe inspiring as the numbers that Dr. Langenburg mentioned. There are approximately 50,000 public school teachers in this state serving a population of approximately 1,000,000. Of those 50,000, on my back-of-the-envelope calculation, perhaps 12 or13,000 teach the three upper grades. Of those 12or 13,000, perhaps 5,000 are teachers of science and mathematics. A $10,000 increase beyond the normal salary scale for those teachers would equal approximately $50,000,000 a year. If one were to add to that similar increases for the narrow categories of special education teachers that are underpaid, you would be looking at perhaps $70,000,000 a year, which is a relevantly small part of the additional state money that is proposed by the Thornton Report to be distributed to the subdivisions. I think the conclusions that one may draw from this are obvious.

If ever there was a time to more adequately compensate science and math teachers, it is now when the state is proposing to greatly increase aid to public education and is in the position to condition portions of that aid on this problem at long last being addressed. I may be correct in that I invited both campaigns to send someone to speak here. Both campaigns have had some trouble with the logistics of that. I believe a young lady in back is here to represent the Townsend campaign. If you’d like to come forward and say a few words, I’ll turn this over to you.

MS. COLLEEN MAHONEY: I just returned, last weekend, to my alma mater, which is Smith College, They have selected several schools in Harlem and they are bringing young women up every summer to Smith College to actually use their facilities there to increase their math and science capabilities. It’s those types of partnerships that are actually very interesting and creative and I hope that we can do more over the next few years.

The Lt. Governor talks about the importance of recruitment and retention. She also had an experience that I’m sure is not foreign to many of you in this room. Last year a constituent contacted her who wanted to teach in the Baltimore City public school system, had a Ph.D. and was unable to teach because the undergraduate degree was at a foreign university and they were missing one piece of the normal parameters of what they expected of a teacher. It wasn’t an issue that impacted science and math.

Actually, if I remember correctly it was an English language, some type of English “thing”. This was the barrier to why this person could not teach in the Baltimore City public schools. Yet, it was something that seemed like it should be such a no-brainer. Here’s a qualified individual, there is a need, lets make it work. But there are inordinate problems in making that happen. I think that we are very interested in what types of new responses we can start over the next few years. We also have had several interesting conversations with businesses here in Maryland. The nursing shortage, for example, which is one piece of the science curriculum. The University of Maryland Medical system and what they are doing. They are working with one particular high school here in Baltimore City to– actually a middle school — to identify children early to make sure they get the science and math education that they need so that when they get to high school they know where they are going, they have a direction and they can see that math and science is a career that actually could mean something to them.

PROF. DENNY GULICK (Department of Mathematics, University of Maryland, College Park): I want to mention just two things. One is on the mathematics side and the other is for the teachers. I’m especially nervous about the teaching side because I have a son who is now teaching in an inner city school in San Francisco, teaching mathematics, quite by accident. He says that this will be his last year because he spends80 to 100 dollars a week on his school. In addition to the salary, as was mentioned briefly by Dr. Langenburg, there also are the working hours. The working hours, one is not paid very much per hour for teaching mathematics and grading150 papers. We, in college, don’t have the kind of problem and maybe we work 80 hours a week but we kind of like everything we do, so it’s a little different story. I believe that Texas has now set aside some money for help in grading mathematics papers in the schools. I’m not talking about tests, I’m talking about homework because as it’s been mentioned here, right at this podium, of course homework is necessary to learning.

As for mathematics, there of us in my department tried to address issues that we find with the students that come to us. In particular we found that the algebra skills for those who are going to be taking calculus, and there are a lot of students taking calculus every year, there are about 2,000 a year, the algebra skills and understanding is way down. It’s gone down more or less precipitously for the last 10 or 15 years. We know because we’ve been teaching there for more than 3 decades. We wish that the schools would be able to resist the prodding by parents that the students leapfrog ahead from topic to topic and actually learn topics before they move on.

Finally, there was a mention of calculator use. We also do find an overuse of calculators to the detriment of really understanding the processes. What we need from our students– they need to own the subject matter. They need to own English. They need to own some historical facts. They need to own mathematics, which means more than memory work. It also means understanding at the same time. I use this quite a bit now, the notion of owning the subject. That is the curriculum side I’d like to address.

PROF. LASZLO TAKACS (Department of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County): Especially, I very much agree with the problem of getting good teachers and retaining them. My special perspective to this matter is that I came to this country years ago from Hungary. I was an adult in two countries. I was very closely working with education back there and I try to work somewhat in high school education and also college. I’m teaching college students here. What are the differences?

I started studying physics, that is my subject. just like any other Hungarian child would and continued studying physics to the end of high school. Not just a special emphasis on physics, but chemistry and biology also through all this period. It was a very much different kind of studying. Rather than getting a big dose of usually biology first, then chemistry, then the basic foundation of physics, there was a repetition many times, once in middle school, once in high school.

The most important concepts came up in many ways. The educational system is set up differently here, so this probably won’t work. But I very strongly believe that some kind of general science education would be very important. Some integrated high school science education. Where physics, chemistry and biology are integrated into one system.

The other thing I wish to emphasize is the student perspective. There is really not enough appreciation of excellent students, as far as I can see. Students that excel in science will excel in mathematics. You can hear about students who are big, strong, tall, fast, who create in athletics. You don’t hear about students who do math better than most. You don’t hear about students who excel in physics and chemistry. You don’t see posters at the front of the school that show that these are our prides. X,Y, won the chemistry competition nationally, the math competition .

There really aren’t all that many competitions like that.

The way I grew up there was a system of say, math or physics competitions on every level. School level, provincial level, national level. They very much respected the students who excelled

We do have some science competitions, science fairs. I have to say they are almost childish compared to the international system of competitions in mathematics, physics, chemistry. The US team does okay, but there is no system below that. The US team is selected in a random way from difficult special high schools. I tried to be involved in it several years ago and it just didn’t work.

I think that on the student level, we need more appreciation of excellent students. Any subject but especially science and mathematics would be very helpful. That could also trickle down to the teachers who could use those excellent students to contribute to retaining the best in teachers and identifying the best in teachers.

MR. LIEBMANN: We will have a brief period of interchange among members of the panel addressed to the subject of where the state should go from here and how it should get there.

DR. LANGENBURG: It is inevitable that the Principal gets more than any of the teachers. In any school system you normally have a hierarchy of pay. The higher your position, the more the pay. That is not true in universities. I used to be the Chancellor of the University system. There was a person who got more salary than I did. There was a dean in his place who got more salary than he did. There were professors who got more salary than the dean. We pay salaries according to what we think is required to get the right person for each position. There are many examples where the highest pays go to professors, rather than to others. We’ve got to get the idea of merit determining salary much more into the schools and not tying them to administrative salaries. On the question of federal funding, this nation decided long ago that the federal government should not bear a significant part of the responsibility for public education at any level. We do not have a ministry of education. We have a department of education that has been a little bit controversial politically from time to time. There are signs that it is beginning to take a little more aggressive role in responding to some of the problems that we have been talking about today. But the fact is, education remains a state and local responsibility.

I think most Americans are not inclined to seek revolutionary change in that. I was a member of the Thornton Commission. It was charged to examine the state’s contribution to the funding of K-12 or pre-K through 12 schools and to examine its adequacy. The constitution of the state of Maryland requires that the state provide, I’ve forgotten the precise term, but an adequate education to all of its citizens, or ensure that this is done. That is about the only explicit requirement in the constitution. The constitution doesn’t require the state of Maryland to build roads, or run police departments, or much of anything else. It does require it to ensure that all its citizens have an adequate education. So the Thornton Commission was asked to look at the state part of the funding formula and to make recommendations. It did so and its conclusion was that at over some period of years, I think it said 5 years, the state ought to be putting in about a billion three more than it now is. Different jurisdictions, different counties, support their schools at different levels. In part, that is because different counties have the economic ability to do so and other counties don’t. Yet, in part, it is because some counties may have the ability but they won’t.

I can assure you that Montgomery county is not at the top of the list of counties that make huge investments in education in Maryland relative to its economic capability. I do have to say based on an awful lot of data that I’ve looked at, that Montgomery county is a very wealthy county. It does a good job of funding its schools, but nevertheless, I think it’s very clear that we, as a state, have a responsibility to make sure that every student in the state, whatever maybe the county of his or her residence, gets a good education.

As a personal comment I would say that it’s just as likely that the person who is going to win a Nobel prize for discovering the cure for cancer, if there is a cure, and there probably isn’t, is currently in a public school in Baltimore City or Caroline County, as it is that they’re in Montgomery county. We’ve got to make sure that in order for us to have a vital society and a strong economy, we’ve really got to educate everybody.

DR. TOLL: This is a very difficult problem. One is the politics of the various counties. We are paying for our education, why can’t you pay for yours? On the other hand, in my comments I said I believe that a good education system does more than just educate the kids. It solves a lot of social problems and it provides a lot of economic development for the state as a whole. So to some degree, and I think an extensive degree, it’s an investment.

Baltimore can’t afford to put as much money, it just doesn’t have the money, in its education system as Montgomery. The other part of that is what everybody has mentioned which is the accountability. I think a big part of this problem is that everybody recognizes the difficulty. Everybody recognizes the need to do something about it. But there is a feeling that a lot of the money gets wasted. The accountability part, which Don was very thorough on, is an integral part of these financing schemes and a solution to the problem. You shouldn’t be able to pour money into Baltimore city education without measuring the incremental benefits that that teacher and those funds are going to get. I firmly think the accountability is very important.

DR. LANGENBURG: I think for you to be convinced that the Thornton Commission is right, you have to be convinced that the proposal they’re making is fair. I think we all understand that those who are more wealthy would expect to pay a greater proportion of the tax dollars needed to support our society than those who are poor. The only question is in making those adjustments, you have to feel that there is some sensible rationale so that indeed Montgomery county is not being overtaxed relative to others.

That takes a careful explanation. It’s an especially wealthy county so it knows it has to carry a heavy burden. We’ve been gradually distributing the burden in this state so that other parts of the state are helping to carry the poorest areas like the city. I think it’s inevitable that that happens, but I agree at every stage we have to show good use is being made of the funds and that it’s a fair system. It must be carefully spelled out in the legislative process.

I just wanted to make one more comment about Montgomery county. You may or may not have read that the University System of Maryland has recently been awarded a $7,500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation which calls for us, , I’m speaking about us here because I’m co-principal investigator on that grant, to work in partnership with Montgomery county public schools to substantially elevate the level of high school science teaching. Not math teaching, but science teaching.

Over the next 5 years, we, and we in this case includes a significant number of professors like the two professors here from UMBC and from College Park, who work with freshmen in elementary courses to form mutual learning communities with their counterparts, we will over 5 years include every single high school math teacher in Montgomery county.

The result, we hope, is going to be substantially improved science teaching both in the Montgomery county high schools and in our universities. It’s going to be a challenge. We are delighted to have Montgomery county working with us because in many ways it is representative of the national challenges we all face. Montgomery county is traditionally viewed from elsewhere in this state as populated by mainly rich people who own big cars and some horses and send their kids to Ivy League schools.

The fact is Montgomery county is increasingly diverse, economically, socio-economically, racially, ethnically and the lot. It’s got some challenges. We have new high school assessments coming up for all of our high school students. Montgomery county recently gave all of its high school biology students a kind of pre-assessment test. It was awake-up call because half of them flunked. There is a lot of work to be done in Montgomery county and we are delighted to be working with the county to do some of that work.

MR, LIEBMANN: Let me ask the panel a question which I think is a practical and pertinent one. The coming session of the General Assembly is going to have before it the first stage of implementation of the Thornton recommendations. If nature is left to take its course, the money will be made available to the local school boards. The local school boards will negotiate contracts with their teachers unions. Those union contracts, if the past is any guide, will be single salary schedule contracts. The net result of the extra money will be what the net result of the extra money has been since teachers unions became influential beginning in the early1960′s, namely that the extra money tends to be spent to increase the number of teachers and to reduce class size rather than to bolster qualitative improvements in the teaching force. The question I would put is is that an accurate assessment in this circumstance? If so, what should be done about it? What conditions should the legislature place on the additional funds that are about to be appropriated?

DR. LANGENBURG: The Thornton Commission, as I noted, was asked only to look at the adequacy of state funding. It was not charged with looking at how those funds were to be spent or what conditions might be imposed. Certainly he who pays the piper likes to call the tune but there is considerable sentiment it seems to me for not asking the state to dictate in great detail how those monies were to be spent but rather to leave those decisions where most people believe they belong, at the local jurisdiction level. Having said that, I think holding the schools accountable, their leadership accountable, their teachers accountable for performance, is critically important. I would suggest that the place to look for the mechanisms that would allow us to do that is not on the input level. That is to say not by directing the schools to take these state funds and do that with it. But rather where there is a broad consensus developing, it should be placed. That is at the results level.

To put it over simplistically, let the schools, I would say let individual schools, I would even say let individual teachers do it however they want to do it. Judge them and hold them accountable for what happens to their students. We are increasingly developing more and more adequate means to do that. The Feds are now requiring us to test students in every grade. We are going to have an awful lot of information about the progress that each individual student is making through each individual class, each individual teacher and each individual school. We need to use that to hold the schools accountable for their results.

I think some very positive things have been happening for some time. In the state, Nancy Grasmick has been the main motivator of measuring, and I’m talking K-12 now, of measuring results and pushing measurement which has gotten a lot of publicity and a lot of spotlight on the problems in the schools. Nevertheless, depending on who you ask, you have anywhere between 75 and 85% drop-out rate in the neighborhood high schools in the city of Baltimore. That is intolerable.

The Bush administration’s bill, the bill passed in conjunction with Congress, includes measuring and holding accountable. That is not going to solve things this year or next year, but I don’t think that is going to stop. If you talk about voucher systems, which I know is a terrible word and everyone gets upset about it, folks support it more in the inner cities than in the suburbs.

That is because parents, contrary to conventional wisdom, in the inner city are very concerned about their children getting a good education. They know they are not getting a good education. I think there are a lot of forces. The problem is so big it seems you are working against the tide here. To some degree you are. There are progress on the achievement tests. I think this is going to accumulate and increase and there will be a demand for results. I think that the forces of reform are on the offensive here. The forces of the status quo are on the defensive. Unfortunately there will be a lot of kids lost in the period before the reforms take place. Lost educationally, I mean, there is not all gloom on the horizon.

DR. TOLL: Nancy Grasmick has been a leader in progress but the particular method she was using has had to be changed to meet the new federal requirements so she’s had to throw out her old tests and there will have to be a whole new set developed. Which I hope will be done fairly rapidly.

In other words, competition to do really well is a good incentive to improve the schools.

MR. LIEBMANN: Once again, I am struck by the contrast between the reform strategy here and that which has recently been pursued by both Conservative and Labor governments in England. In England you have had some of the things you have had here. You have had league tables and accountability tests. What you have also had is a determination to decentralize responsibility to the level of the individual school. You have also had the national government mandating various forms of extra pay and merit pay out of recognition that the political force of the unions has been such that they have tended to dominate the local education authorities. I do think that people are overly casual about the wise use of Thornton money, accountability testing or not, given the commitment of the unions to the single salary schedule.

I think frankly, they need to be hit over the head with a plank. The only person who can hit them over the head with a plank is the incoming governor, whoever he or she may be.

DR. LANGENBURG: I just wanted to comment about the situation in the UK. One more thing should be said. If you look at the international comparisons that you referred to earlier, George, in which typically American elementary school students do pretty well compared with their counterparts in a couple of dozen other developed nations, they steadily lose ground through middle school and high school and come out pretty close to the bottom by the time they graduate from high school. Fifteen years ago the Brits looked a lot like us.

It is interesting what the effects of the reforms, first in the Thatcher government, and continued through the present government have actually done. Britain has leap-frogged us. Its advances have been just extraordinary. We ought to look very carefully at what they have managed to do as we undertake our own reform efforts. Thornton has been passed but it hasn’t been funded. I would presume that as the funding becomes an issue that the measurement and accountability would be part of that funding. I would think that the hours of the week and so forth pale before the conditions of the teaching in the inner city in terms of the parental interest, the actually dangerous conditions for teachers and I know one of the things we’ve supported is Teach for America’s students or graduates in the inner city system. They’ve done very well and I think we are up to140 now. Those teachers, Teach for America is a program where students from very good schools who are not necessarily trained as teachers are hired and commit for two years in the city school system. They have an opportunity to get their masters.

They’re assigned now in groups to give each other support which is necessary in some of these schools because things have been done a certain way for a long time. Regardless of the money, how much money does it take to — or is there enough money to make someone teach in a school that they are uncomfortable or afraid in. That is a big challenge.

I don’t know how much money is enough either but when New York responded to the mandate that it stop hiring unqualified, uncertified teachers in its schools, they solved that problem with, I think, about$5,000 a teacher. They started attracting teachers from the suburbs to the inner city. To get back to the larger question, I think if you think about any true profession you will find that it is structured, and the work environment is structured, so that those who are charged with the responsibility for the demanding, complex, central function for which an enormous amount of training in education is required, pretty much get to focus on that function. They are provided with help from other sources to take care of ancillary functions. Teaching is just about the only profession that I can think of where this isn’t the case. It’s got to start being the case. I don’t know exactly how that ought to be approached but it seems to me there needs to be teachers assistants or teacher aides in much larger numbers in the schools. Somehow or other we’ve got to take the serious responsibility for major disciplinary questions out of the teachers’ hands. We shouldn’t have the teachers doing monitoring in the cafeteria at lunch time. They ought to be free to do the really hard part of their task, which is teaching.

Teaching is one of the most challenging, one of the hardest things there is to do. Most ordinary human beings simply can’t do it. We have dedicated people who not only can do it but want to do it. They’re in the schools and they need a lot more help than they are getting.

Posted in: Education, Report