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Michael D. Eisner College of Education

Free Response Questions - Issues in STEM Education

(1) The Landmark Nation at Risk Report (1983) issued a number of recommendations regarding the teaching profession. All of the following have been attempted by various school districts around the country. Which of the following have been given the most attention since the report was issued? Describe programs, projects, or initiatives that have addressed one or more of these items. Which of the following do you believe needs the most attention? Explain your rationale.

1. Persons preparing to teach should be required to meet high educational standards, to demonstrate an aptitude for teaching, and to demonstrate competence in an academic discipline. Colleges and universities offering teacher preparation programs should be judged by how well their graduates meet these criteria.
2. Salaries for the teaching profession should be increased and should be professionally competitive, market-sensitive, and performance-based. Salary, promotion, tenure, and retention decisions should be tied to an effective evaluation system that includes peer review so that superior teachers can be rewarded, average ones encouraged, and poor ones either improved or terminated.
3. School boards should adopt an 11-month contract for teachers. This would ensure time for curriculum and professional development, programs for students with special needs, and a more adequate level of teacher compensation.
4. School boards, administrators, and teachers should cooperate to develop career ladders for teachers that distinguish among the beginning instructor, the experienced teacher, and the master teacher.
5. Substantial nonschool personnel resources should be employed to help solve the immediate problem of the shortage of mathematics and science teachers. Qualified individuals, including recent graduates with mathematics and science degrees, graduate students, and industrial and retired scientists could, with appropriate preparation, immediately begin teaching in these fields. A number of our leading science centers have the capacity to begin educating and retraining teachers immediately. Other areas of critical teacher need, such as English, must also be addressed.
6. Incentives, such as grants and loans, should be made available to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, particularly in those areas of critical shortage.
7. Master teachers should be involved in designing teacher preparation programs and in supervising teachers during their probationary years.

(2) The 1983 "Nation at Risk Report" states: "Principals and superintendents must play a crucial leadership role in developing school and community support for the reforms we propose, and school boards must provide them with the professional development and other support required to carry out their leadership role effectively. The Commission stresses the distinction between leadership skills involving persuasion, setting goals and developing community consensus behind them, and managerial and supervisory skills. Although the latter are necessary, we believe that school boards must consciously develop leadership skills at the school and district levels if the reforms we propose are to be achieved." Many educational leaders have great managerial skills, but lack leadership skills as mentioned in the report. Give an example (at any level) in which an educational leader exhibited leadership skills. What reforms did this individual accomplish, and why do you think they were successful? You do not need to include names.


(3) In the preface to "Before It's Too Late: A Report to the Nation from The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. (2000)", John Glenn stated: "From mathematics and the sciences will come the products, services, standard of living, and economic and military security that will sustain us at home and around the world. From them will come the technological creativity American companies need to compete effectively in the global marketplace. “Globalization” has occurred. Economic theories of a few years ago are now a reality. Goods, services, ideas, communication, businesses, industries, finance, investment, and jobs—the good jobs—are increasingly the competitive currency of the inter-national marketplace...Beyond the world of global finance, mathematics and science will also supply the core forms of knowledge that the next generation of innovators, producers, and workers in every country will need if they are to solve the unforeseen problems and dream the dreams that will define America’s future....The task to which we call the American people is therefore not an easy one.

Nor will our goals be met at bargain-basement rates. But we believe we have a well-focused view of the needs facing our country and its youth, and that we have identified the right starting points for preparing them to meet their future. We are just as strongly convinced that the downstream cost of not turning this problem around will be exponentially higher than the cost of beginning to solve it now." The John Glenn Commission argues " stated that the United States must:

* Establish an ongoing system to improve the quality of mathematics and science teaching in grades K–12;
* Increase significantly the number of mathematics and science teachers and improve the quality of their preparation; and
* Improve the working environment and make the teaching profession more attractive for K–12 mathematics and science teachers.

The John Glenn Commission argued:

Goal 1: Establish an ongoing system to improve the quality of mathematics and science teaching in grades K –12.
Seven interdependent action strategies are offered to implement this system: (1) each state, must immediately undertake a full needs assessment to determine what teachers require, both in their schools and their professional lives, if they are to routinely deliver high-quality teaching; (2) Summer Institutes must be established to address the professional development needs identified; (3) building- and district-level Inquiry Groups can provide venues for teachers to engage in common study to enrich their subject knowledge and teaching skills; (4) Leadership Training is needed to prepare facilitators for the Summer Institutes and Inquiry Groups; (5) a dedicated Internet Portal must be available to teachers so they can make use of and contribute to an ever-expanding knowledge base about mathematics and science teaching; (6) a nongovernmental Coordinating Council is needed to bring together the above initiatives and those that follow to assess accomplishments; and (7) all states and local districts should initiate reward and incentive programs, both to support exemplary professional development that results in higher student achievement and to increase the attractiveness of teaching as a profession.

Goal 2: Increase significantly the number of mathematics and science teachers and improve the quality of their preparation. Three action strategies are offered for this goal: (1) a direct strategy that identifies exemplary models of teacher preparation whose success can be widely replicated; (2) an overarching strategy of finding ways to attract additional qualified candidates into teaching from among high school and college students, recent college graduates, and people at mid-career; and (3) creating 15 competitively selected Mathematics and Science Teaching Academies to annually train 3,000 Academy Fellows, who will be nationally recruited for a one-year, intensive course on effective teaching methods in mathematics or science.

Goal 3: Improve the working environment and make the teaching profession more attractive for K–12 mathematics and science teachers. Four action strategies address this goal: (1) focused induction programs are required to help acclimate beginning mathematics and science teachers to the profession, create formal mentoring relationships, and introduce teachers to Inquiry Groups; (2) district/business partnerships are needed to provide support for a broad range of efforts that can help create professional working environments for teachers. These efforts can enhance teaching by providing materials, facilities, equipment, and mentor stipends; (3) incentives—whether in the form of cash awards, salary increases, support for further education, or community-wide recognition—are needed to encourage deserving mathematics and science teachers to remain in teaching and improve their skills; and (4) salaries of all teachers must be made more competitive, but especially for mathematics and science teachers, whose combined preparation and skills command high wages in the private sector

Develop a grant proposal abstract for a LEA project that will address one or more of the subgoals mentioned in the report. Assume realistic funding possibilities in a non-recessionary year.


(4) The following data was collected from the doctoral cohort. Describe three or more trends that appear in the data. Are these trends consistent with your expectations or published research? Explain.

school data



(5) Your colleagues have posted the following comments with respect to the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" Report. Discuss a project, grant, or reform movement that embraces one or more of the issues addressed below. It is best to discuss something with which are are familiar, but if you see none of these are found in your school system, you may look for examples elsewhere. Discuss any research, findings, or impressions related to the effectiveness of the project, grant, or reform movement.


(6) One of the students in the cohort encouraged us to read "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings". Write a one or two paragraph summary of these findings that you can share with the students in you school to help motivate them toward further study. Do you think it is wise to use such an approach? Explain.