On July 18, the Obama Administration announced the President's plan for the creation of a national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps.
"The STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin with 50 exceptional STEM teachers established in 50 sites and will be expanded over 4 years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. These selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. The Administration will launch this Teacher Corps with the $1 billion from the President's 2013 budget request currently before Congress," states a White House press release.
The White House intends to engage teachers at all levels in this program, including those in elementary schools and those who teach at-risk students. Another key intent of this program is that Master Teachers will promote "deep learning over teaching to the test." The White House intends to assess the effectiveness of the program by talking to educators as the Corps is designed and then developing metrics for evaluating its effectiveness with further input from educators.
Funding to improve STEM teaching and learning was included in the President's budget request for the Department of Education. This funding, in the form of competitive grants, is intended to help school districts "implement high-quality plans to establish career ladders that identify, develop, and leverage highly effective STEM teachers." The White House is hoping to work with Congress to eventually fund the program at the intended level of $1 billion over the course of a decade.
The President's budget request for FY2013 includes a $5 billion request for funding a new program, the Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) Project, aimed at re-envisioning the teaching profession. According to the White House Press Release:
"As part of the RESPECT project, the STEM Master Teacher Corps will be supported by the U.S. Department of Education, and established in collaboration with independent, non-profit organizations and local public-private partnerships between STEM-related businesses and industries and school districts. Key parts of the plan include:
- A rigorous selection of the best and brightest math and science teachers from across the country: The STEM Master Teacher Corps will be established in 100 sites - each with 50 exceptional STEM teachers - and will be expanded over 4 years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. Accomplished teachers will be selected for the STEM Master Teacher Corps through a highly competitive process, based on demonstrated effectiveness in teaching one or more STEM subjects, their content knowledge, and their contributions to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning both within their schools and across the community of STEM teachers. The selection process will be administered locally or regionally, but aligned to a set of national benchmarks.
- National recognition and rewards, including compensation to keep Corps members in the profession: STEM Master Teacher Corps members will benefit from a professional compensation structure that will make their profession more competitive with alternative careers, keeping the best teachers in the classrooms where they are needed. STEM Master Teacher Corps members will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. This recognition further raises the prestige of the Corps members, enabling America's classrooms to attract and secure the best talent in the STEM education profession.
- Corps members as a national resource, for their schools and for other STEM educators: STEM Master Teacher Corps members will be called to serve their profession and the nation, through an ongoing commitment to professional learning. They will build a community of teaching practice where they live, helping students excel in math and science while taking on leadership and mentorship roles in their schools and communities. Corps members will lead ongoing professional meetings and teacher development activities; assist their schools and school districts in evaluating and providing feedback to other teachers; and validate and disseminate effective practices to improve STEM instruction. They will participate in regular convenings to engage in professional development and share best practices; deepen their subject matter expertise; consult with experts in teaching and learning; and improve their instructional leadership and pedagogical content! skills."
As of the July 27 deadline for applications, over 30 school districts submitted applications for funding which would go towards identifying and compensating "highly effective teachers who can model and mentor STEM instruction for their teaching peers, providing those teachers with additional compensation, recognition, and responsibilities in their schools."
The STEM Master Teaching Corps stems from a key recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which called for a national STEM Master Teacher Corps "to recognize and help retain America's most talented STEM teachers, build a community of practice among them, raise the profile of the STEM teaching profession, and leverage excellent teachers to collaborate with their peers to strengthen STEM education in America's public schools."
Aline D. McNaull
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics