Last week, the Obama Administration announced plans to improve the quality of education in areas that, according to Associated Press reporter Josh Lederman, “hold the key to future economic growth,” and, in turn, help close the achievement gap between U.S. students and their international peers. The administration proposed spending $1 billion on a Master Teacher Corps composed of high-performing teachers to help boost student achievement in science, technology, math, and engineering.
According to the Associated Press, a 2012 report released by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology found that the U.S must increase the number of students receiving degrees in the fields of math and sciences by 34 percent in order to keep up with economic demand.
Today, U.S. employers are importing engineers and scientists because of shortages of qualified workers. A recent report by the Brookings Institutions lays out the extent of this need. As a summary of this report notes, the jobs that need engineers and scientists aren't just in the high-tech computer field. For instance, in Bloomington, Ill., 94.8 percent of all H-1B visa requests--the type of visa needed to work in STEM fields in the US-- are for STEM occupations. These are driven by companies like Patni Americas Inc., which provides information-technology services for State Farm insurance. High-tech manufacturing also needs engineers and skilled workers at all levels.
The STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin with 50 exceptional STEM teachers established in 50 sites and will be expanded over four years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. The Corps will use their expertise in STEM subjects and teaching to mentor math and science teachers and inspire students.
These selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their current salary. President Obama had previously set a goal of producing 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next ten years, and it appears that the Master Teacher Corps is just another step toward that goal.
“The goal is to create a multiplier effect in which expert educators share their knowledge and skills with other teachers, improving the quality of education for all students,” wrote Lederman.
The administration has $100 million immediately available for the program, taken from an existing fund to create incentives for top performing teachers. However, the full price tag of the new initiative will be written into Obama’s budget request for the 2013 fiscal year.
At a re-election rally in San Antonio last week, Obama emphasized the importance of the administration’s new proposal. "I'm running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate," he said, “and that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science."