Most of us generally understand that our U.S. public education system is a total morass. But what many of you might not know is just how negative our trajectory is: the high school dropout rate has tripled in the past 30 years, the U.S. is ranked 21 out of 27 countries in high school graduations, and each of those dropouts costs this country approximately $260,000.
Scary, right? And anything but positive. So, let’s get to that “positive” part, shall we? I’ve often wondered what our public education system would be like if teachers carried as much clout as lawyers, their pay was similar and so too was their accreditation-needing to pass an exam as difficult as the bar. Teaching, I think we can all agree, is one of the most important jobs in this country. So why don’t we treat it that way? The result is that very few of us (even those with a passion for children and teaching) are using our college education to go back to school and be teachers.
Those who do, I applaud. Those who don’t, I understand-there is little glory these days for the insane amount of work, stress and troubles you would face. But we need talent in the classroom for a sustainable period of time if we want to change the country’s work-force readiness and high school drop out trajectory.
Welcome to the Billion Dollar Plan for Education
Regardless of your political views, you probably all stand together in the desire to one day be part of the generation running a thriving, successful country. President Obama’s $1 billion announcement yesterday might be the first step in that direction. Obama wants to create a Master Teacher Corps to recruit high-performing math and science teachers that can help keep the U.S. competitive and retain cutting-edge jobs in this country for the long haul.
The program calls for 10,000 teachers over four years, all of who would receive $20,000 stipends in addition to their base salaries. The idea is that this program would attract the best and brightest teachers by rewarding high-performers who would also create a multiplier effect-sharing their knowledge and skills with other teachers and improving student achievement overall.
Who’s footing the bill, and who’s driving?
There would be at least a 4-year participation commitment required from the teachers in the program-so it’s clear that long-term cost is an issue. Of this billion dollar plan, which is still dependent on Congress approving Obama’s budget plan, $100 million has been pledged to be released and available to school districts who have already made effective plans to develop and retain effective teachers of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
While there is much debatable information in this plan such as selection criteria, training, questions of focus (should the program center on basics such as literacy?), and political obstacles, what the plan has already done effectively is to signal the beginning of real change that will attract and retain amazing talent to the public education system–which I think is one of our best shots in improving the trajectory of this country in generations to come.