Monday, February 27, 2006

Math Monday: Paying More For Those Who Teach Math

Math for America, a program developed by New York City's public school system, is using scholarships and bonus pay on top of their teaching salaries in order to recruit math teachers:
In New York City, nearly 700 math teachers aren't certified in the subject. It's a national problem too, and was even cited in the president's State of the Union message.

Eyewitness News Education Reporter Art McFarland shows us a program to change that, which could become a model across the country.

Giselle George teaches 8th grade pre-algebra at East Side Community High School in the East Village. She's one of only 12 handpicked math teachers in New York City in a new program called "Math For America."

Giselle: "Too often you have people who don't like math and they're just doing it because it's a job, so therefore they don't give kids that extra step to love math. But that's what I had. I had teachers who love math, who had a smile on their face even when solving the most difficult equation. So that made me want to do the same."

"Math For America" selects college grads with strong math qualifications. The first year, they get $28,000 dollars and a scholarship to work full-time for a master's degree in math education.

Over next four years, they get $62,000 dollars on top of their teacher's salary to teach math in New York City public schools.

Rafael Perez, student: "If you don't understand, she'll help you to understand, so she won't go on until you understand."

The program is privately funded with $25 million dollars, to eventually put 180 teachers in city schools -- people who could command higher paying jobs elsewhere.

"Math For America" was created because U.S. students lag far behind the rest of the world in math.

Jonathan Schweig, "Math for America" says: "They're not going to be mathematically equipped to deal with an economy that's increasingly reliant on strong mathematical proficiency."

Among New York City's 8th graders, about 60 percent cannot do grade level work in math. Nearly 700 math teachers in the city are not certified to teach the subject. But here at East Side Community High, Ms. George is a role model.

Marc Federman, the principal at the school, says: "You have this strong woman of color who is just sending a message both in her practice and by her own success -- sending a message to these young men and women that this is something they can do."

Melanie Bonilla, student: "I've seen a dramatic improvement in my grades... It's a huge transition."

A bill was just introduced in Congress to use federal funds to take the program nationwide.
Visit the Math for America web site right here.

I am reasonably sure that the salary differential is apt to be a serious bone of contention in those districts where teaching salaries are negotiated through the collective bargaining process.

Update: (PM) Michele, who is co-publisher of AFT's NCLBlog lets us know in our comments that, "Several of our affiliates offer pay differentials for shortage areas like math and science."

It should be noted that the AFT, (American Federation of Teachers) has shown itself to be much more flexable in these matters than the much larger (and much less democratically-run) National Education Association (NEA).
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