The Educate to Innovate campaign recently announced by President Obama may become the latest addition to the Department of Education’s hall of inefficient and costly federal programs. The President revealed a plan to increase taxpayer funding for teaching programs by $10 million and lauded a promise by 75 public universities to graduate thousands of new science and technology teachers over the next 5 years.
Dave Saba, President and CEO of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), a non-profit organization that provides an alternative route to teacher certification for experienced professionals, points out the shortcomings of the President’s initiative:
According to the President, public university presidents have committed to training 10,000 new math and science teachers annually by 2015. Later in the speech we find out this is a whopping 2,500 over what these schools do now. And there were 75 universities that made this pledge. So we do some simple division to find out that this is a staggering 33 new math and science teachers per school.…But we read further and find out that you can’t take this on all at once – no – they will achieve this groundbreaking innovation 5 years from now. In essence, each school has to add 6 new teachers per year.
While the rather unimpressive totals of the Educate to Innovate plan reinforce the federal government’s inability to provide a one-size-fits-all solution for American education, organizations such ABCTE are efficiently meeting the needs of schools and districts across the country. ABCTE enables science, math, and technology professionals with years of experience in their fields access to a cost effective route into the classroom, without expending precious taxpayer dollars. As Saba notes,
Last year ABCTE certified 219 new math and science teachers and that was 75 over what we did the previous year and we are on track to certify well over 350 this year. And our program only costs each of our teachers $975 – about 5% of what it will cost the universities.
Similarly, a truly innovative trend in both public schools and charter school movements to utilize online classes and full-time “cyber schools” may open the door for a greater number of potential science, math, and technology teachers. Heritage’s Dan Lips summarizes the many benefits of virtual education, which include the possibility of providing every child with access to a quality math or science teacher – regardless of their zip code:
In some subjects, such as science and mathematics, some schools have difficulty employing skilled teachers and therefore cannot offer students instruction in certain subjects. However, through online learning, a student attending a school without a physics teacher, for example, could learn physics from a teacher in another school district or even in another state.
Virtual learning is on the threshold of becoming a widespread educational phenomenon. Couple that innovation with cutting-edge alternative teacher certification programs such as ABCTE, and expensive, top-down “solutions” from Washington quickly appear archaic. Considering the cost to both students and taxpayers for a traditional four-year degree and teaching certificate from a state university, the Educate to Innovate plan sounds less like a creative solution and more like an expensive endorsement of the status quo.