Science fiction at the White House Science Fair

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Scientific fact:  We've got a problem with math and science education.

Science fiction: Funding ed schools to create innovative programs will solve our nation's STEM woes.

At a science fair yesterday, Obama unveiled a plan to help train 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade. Obama is asking Congress for $80 million to support new Department of Education grants for colleges that provide "innovative" teacher-training programs. An additional $22 million commitment comes from private companies, including Google, Teach For America (!), and the University of Chicago.

We know traditional teacher prep isn't cutting it. But the solutions are much more straightforward than you would think. Raising the bar for who becomes a teacher is the first step. Making sure prospective teachers have strong content training is a close second.

We commend Obama for bringing more attention to the inadequacy of our current teacher prep programs, but we can't ignore the plan's limitations. "Innovative" training won't change the reality that few top math and science students want to go into a profession that pays dramatically less than the private sector. Until we rethink teacher compensation structures, in a way that recognizes and rewards excellence, teaching will remain an unattractive profession to many of the folks that we most need to attract. 

Emily Cohen