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Obama on Attracting Science Teachers

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My colleague Sean Cavanagh has a great item up on Obama's speech at the National Academy of Sciences. Here's Obama on the idea of attracting science professionals into the classroom:

“Let's create new pathways for experienced professionals to go into the classroom,” the president said. “There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry, physicists who could teach physics, statisticians who could teach mathematics. But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks–-folks like you–into the classroom.”

He could be referring to "career-changers" who decide to enter teaching full time. But perhaps he was also referring to those physicists and chemists who LIKE their jobs and want to be more involved in schools without necessarily leaving their labs?

I remember that for years the Bush administration had a proposal for "adjunct" teachers, basically professionals who might teach a few high school classes here and there. A Democratic-controlled Congress finally included the program in the Higher Education Act bill, signed last year. But appropriators haven't doled out funds to it yet.

As far as I can recall, the teachers' unions weren't all that hot on this idea when first proposed. It'd be interesting to hear what the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, makes of the concept. After all, while she was a rising star in the New York affiliate, she taught history part time at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn. Sounds kinda adjunct-y to me.

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I applaud Obama's encouragement to the professional science community to engage in the education of our students. What I am cautious about is the fact that most of these professionals have not had the pedagogy necessary to be effective teachers. Teachers are professionals in their own right. Knowing content and delivering content are two very separate gifts. Why not look at ways these two professional communities can come together to learn from each other, thereby creating a cadre of highly skilled teachers with solid content knowledge , and science professionals with not only the urge to teach but the ability to do it effectively.

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