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Published: 2/20/2007

State urged to invest in top-notch teachers

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Ohio must invest in top teaching talent and give many students an attitude adjustment about math and science if it hopes to compete in tomorrow's global economy, a state panel warned yesterday.

"If we don't make that investment, the penalty is going to be enormous," said Julian Earls, former director of the NASA John Glenn Research Center and current executive-in-residence of Cleveland State University's Nance School of Business.

"The penalty is we will not be the leaders," he said. "We will fall even further behind in terms of science and math education, which has a direct impact on the economy."

Mr. Earls co-chaired the Science and Mathematics Education Policy Advisory Council consisting of 23 representatives of K-12 schools, higher education, and the business and science communities.

The panel was created more than a year ago by then-Gov. Bob Taft and the Board of Regents to recommend changes that Ohio can make from preschool through college to produce world-class talent for tomorrow's business needs.

The report calls for financial incentives to recruit and keep high-quality teachers, creation of so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) academies, and correction of a public mind-set that such courses are for a privileged few.

"One of the cornerstones of this advisory panel is that we need to have some kind of PR to make the public aware of how much of this Ohio is lacking. This is not going to be accomplished right away," said council member Heinz Bulmahn, vice provost for research and dean of Bowling Green State University's graduate college.

The panel presented its recommendations as a whole, not as a menu from which lawmakers could pick and choose.

"If any one of these legs fails, we're not going to get close to solving this problem," Mr. Bulmahn said.

The recommendations were presented as a continuation of what lawmakers started late last year when they raised the math and science bar that high-school graduates must clear, beginning with the class of 2014.

The report makes no effort to tell the state, school districts, or universities where they would find the revenue to produce and pay more science and math teachers and increase course offerings and related extracurricular activities.

"We should have been doing this 16 years ago," said Senate Minority Leader Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), a former teacher. "The facts bear this out. We're lagging behind because of a lack of vision and a lack of focus on a public education system for all."

She said the focus on math and science should not come at the expense of other courses.

Ten of the panel's 13 recommendations would require additional state funding. The report arrives as Gov. Ted Strickland has downplayed expectations for major new spending initiatives for his first two-year budget proposal due next month.

Karen Holbrook, president of Ohio State University and council co-chairman, said teacher recruitment is the glue that will bind all of the other recommendations. Pay is likely to be part of that discussion.

"Some people will say that teachers are so committed that, if they work in a good environment and have good opportunities, the salary isn't going to be that important," she said. "On the other hand, if you give people a choice of careers, one that pays better than the other, I'm afraid we'll lose teachers. In the end, teachers have to pay for their families as well."

The National Academy of Sciences has called for the recruitment of 10,000 math and science teachers a year to meet the country's demand.

"The [school] building program and our new core curriculum will be for naught if we do not develop the faculty that can deliver the curriculum," Rep. Clyde Evans (R., Rio Grande) said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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