# Why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools?

1. Nov 29, 2009

### noblegas

Of all the complaints that I hear about when the topic of public school teaching is being discussed , the subtopic that always seems to come up is the lack of qualified science teachers that are teaching in public high schools, especially physics teachers. What can be done to address this pertinent problem, I mean besides firing unqualified teachers and hiring qualified teachers? Some say that the best science teachers are drawn away from teaching because of the more lucrative jobs in the job market that offer higher pay than teaching. But I would argue that some teachers who do have a BA or a higher degree in a science like physics or biochemistry should not be teaching if they are only interested in their subtopic and not interested in teaching the introductory material to their students, just like their are some college professors who have no business teaching and should devote their full time to research if that what they love to do. That being said, I suppose the best thing to do to address this problem is to hire teachers who not only specialize in the subject that they are teaching , but higher teachers who are gifted or worked very hard to present the material in a manner where the non-specialist has a full understanding of the subjects that they are teaching. What are some of your suggestions to address this problem or even do some of you even see a problem with how science is being taught generally in high schools?

2. Nov 29, 2009

### whs

Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools

Who says its a problem? Sounds to me like you are just hearing people complain.

3. Nov 29, 2009

### Chi Meson

Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools

By gum there is a problem.

I only have a Bachelor's in Physics, and I think that makes me a better high school teacher than if I had stuck it out for a Master's. It was hard enough getting my head down to the High School level after undergrad. If I had gone post-grad, It would have taken me even further from this level.

But even with a Bachelor's, I could have started at much higher salary almost anywhere else. I decided to teach mainly because the summer vacations were worth much more than the $30,000. It was a no brainer to me, but evidently I am considered the "odd one." If you want better science teachers, we will have to pay them more or give them other incentives. We have a deficit of physics teachers in general; only 44% of all physics teachers have any form of degree in physics (and this includes a "minor in physics education"; this was printed in last February's Physics Today) and only about 2/3 of America's High Schools even offer Physics. Why should teachers be considered to be a mutant breed of humanity that does their job jot for money but merely for the good feeling one gets when educating America's youth? Why should the law of supply and demand take a holiday? Every elementary school should have a physical science specialist for each grade. Every high school should have a Physics teacher with a degree in physics. In my own school there is the "other guy" who has repetedly demonstrated that he doesn't know what he is doing. He teaches his Honors Physics class like a middle school IPS class "Let's discover the characteristics of waves on our own by playing with slinkys in the hall for 45 minutes!" (And the slinkys come back mangled and overstretched!) Anyway, if you know what you need and you can't find any takers, then the offer isn't good enough. 4. Nov 29, 2009 ### whs Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools I am confused with these statements. How was it hard getting your head down to high school level? High school level physics would hopefully come naturally after 4 years of study... And why do high school physics teachers need a degree in physics? My high school physics teacher was excellent, and she didn't have a physics degree, or a physics minor. She even gave me extra studying materials to get me prepared for college, even though I didn't major in physics. Who says teachers are considered mutant breeds of humanity?! You must be one very disgruntled person.. It would be nice if physics was offered in more high schools, if that number has any truth to it. But when I went through school, hardly anyone cared about actually learning, and those that did sure didn't need a physics major to learn physics, they could do it on their own. All we needed was a teacher that could spark some sort of interest in the material, and my teachers accomplished that. 5. Nov 29, 2009 ### D H Staff Emeritus Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools The math and the physics in high school physics are markedly and painfully simplistic. Those with a bachelor's degree in physics, let alone an advanced degree, would have to dumb themselves down to a high school level to be able to teach it. That is not an easy task. 6. Nov 29, 2009 ### whs Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Oh really? So tell me, you get your BS in physics and you are off to teach High school. What steps would you take to dumb yourself down? Go out drinking for a few months? Hit up starbucks and tediously try to understand a lack of details? There is no such thing as 'dumbing yourself down'. Its an excuse people make that either can't teach, or don't understand these concepts. I find it hilarious that someone who CHOSE to teach would find it difficult to teach very simple concepts that were a part of the degree itself. My math degree doesn't hinder me in the least from teaching simple concepts. More proof that I am brilliant I suppose.. 7. Nov 29, 2009 ### Sorry! Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Well math isn't physics first off. With your degree in math how would you explain to a person with no prior experience to how to calculate the max. amount of area a certain amount of fence? Not just show them what to do but give them and understanding of everything being done. 8. Nov 29, 2009 ### turbo Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Our next-door neighbors in our last house were a math teacher and a general elementary teacher. They made 'way more money than the average citizens of the town (Maine is a poor state with low wages), and they had summers off to vacation with their 3 kids. They had a slide-in camper for their truck when we moved into the neighborhood, and upgraded to larger camping trailers over the years. They put their kids though college, did home improvements, and bought new vehicles ever 4-5 years or so. Teachers are not impoverished up here - they are living pretty well as long as they don't live beyond their means, and they get really great health-care coverage and retirement benefits AND summers off with their kids. Pretty sweet deal. We have some pretty well-qualified teachers because of that. An old friend of mine teaches special education at the regional junior-high/HS, and she has a masters from Penn State. Pretty sharp lady. 9. Nov 29, 2009 ### Chi Meson Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools I certainly wouldn't call it "dumbing yourself down," but it is difficult to find several ways of explaining a concept to several different people when you yourself never had any difficulty with that concept. Tell me, where do you teach? 10. Nov 29, 2009 ### whs Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Ah OK, but D H said math OR physics, hence I replied with an example in math. I'm not sure what you are trying to ask me with your hypothetical situation. Are you trying to get me to say I will need to dumb myself down and I'll be able to perform the task? Do you want me to say it will be simple? Impossible? What happens if we get nuked mid learning session? "Give them and understanding of everything being done" : Not sure what you mean by this. So 'Sorry!' are you saying you wouldn't be able to teach high school physics after a BS in college without 'dumbing' yourself down? (Whatever that means..) 11. Nov 29, 2009 ### Chi Meson Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Wow, you make a lot of assumptions! And it's clear that you are not a teacher, either. 12. Nov 29, 2009 ### rootX Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools In addition, I believe there are less liabilities and headaches relative to working in private sectors (high/good paid jobs)... I guess? 13. Nov 29, 2009 ### whs Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools I'm sorry for your difficulty. I find when I don't have trouble with a concept, I can easily find many different ways to explain it. Whatever. Back on topic... Does anyone have any evidence that there are too many unqualified science teachers? Or is the subject of science just getting a back seat to something else? My very narrow observations show well qualified teachers, some without degrees in physics, chem etc.. I think this is an interesting topic that I also hear a lot about. I'm sorry that I have upset some people here. Geez. 14. Nov 29, 2009 ### lisab Staff Emeritus Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools You're trolling. Are you just upset at the term "dumbing down"? Fact is, there is a *wide* gulf between physics learned in high school (where the students are still learning the basics of algebra) and in college (where most of the upper division classes use multi-variable calculus, Dirac notation, etc). 15. Nov 29, 2009 ### whs Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools Huh? Where was all the assumptions? Are you calling my personal experiences in high school assumptions? Did you read your own post? I was repeating your assumptions, questioning them, followed by personal experience.. I see why you have trouble teaching.. 16. Nov 29, 2009 ### turbo Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools I taught adults in industrial settings, and it was a bear of a job. Many of the people in my classes were poorly-educated and functionally illiterate. They had worked their way up through the ranks, often with only on-the-job peer-to-peer training, and their employers would hire me to develop and deliver training programs as retirements and illnesses thinned their ranks. Bear in mind that my specialty was pulp and paper, and the power boilers, chemical recovery boilers and associated systems were generally operating at 600-900 psi. Pretty dangerous stuff to trust to operators with only spotty OTJ training, so my contracts were mostly driven by the mills' insurance companies. They wanted documented, certified training. The employees often were put off by the notion that somebody from 1000 miles away could come in and teach them more about their mills and teach them how to be better at their jobs. Hard to win them over, sometimes. I had to write and teach an electrical safety program to electrical-department supervisors for DuPont after too many of their staff took early retirement in the 80's. They lost a lot of talent and experience due to that mis-cue. I would have loved to have taught in a school program in which I had some confidence in the base of knowledge that each class had established in earlier grades. I took some education courses in college in anticipation of just that, after switching from engineering to liberal arts in mid-course. Life intervened, and I wound up working in construction, and then as a chemist in pulp and paper. I like to think that I would have been a good HS teacher and a decent motivator for kids. 17. Nov 29, 2009 ### maverick_starstrider Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools I've never understood how high school teachers complained about their pay. The average salary for a teacher is something like$45,000 for 8 months work. That seems quite reasonable considering the vast majority of teachers don't even have undergraduate degrees in the topic they're teaching (for example most physics teacher could not do any actual form of physics or engineering in industry). And of course there are people who get into teaching because they love it however it has been my experience that those are the precious few. With exception of 2 people, every person I knew who went to teacher's college went because they weren't eligible for grad school (failed too many courses) and they didn't like their odds at getting an industry job either. It was sort of the "drop-out" track for physics grads (excepting of course those precious few who always wanted to become teachers).

18. Nov 29, 2009

### whs

Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools

Did I say otherwise somewhere? Why would be upset at that term? I never brought it up in the first place? I am really sorry I upset everyone in this off topic debate. I can see I'm not welcome here.

Dare I question anyone. I am apparently a lying troll.

19. Nov 29, 2009

### D H

Staff Emeritus
Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools

*You* are the one who brought the thread off-topic. You are welcome here, but if you want the welcome mat to stay in place I suggest you lose the chip in your shoulder.

20. Nov 29, 2009

### mgb_phys

Re: why is their an oversaturation of unqualified science teachers in US high schools

In the UK the IoP claim that 25% of schools have no science teachers. (*)

As a result almost all state funded schools don't teach separate science, they teach general science instead. The big advantage of this is that it's easy and it counts as 2 courses.
So if you have a student in general science who gets an A (which >50% of students do since it's mostly reading comprehension) that counts the same as a student getting an A in both physics and chemistry (must less likely) as far as school performance tables and funding goes.
The more students you can put through easy courses, the more funding you get - the last thing you want is students gambling next years budget by taking hard science classes.
Would you want to be physics teacher if your job is based on how many stuents you can get through the easiest exams?

It's even worse in languages, since they stopped being compulsory almost all schools have dropped them - it's hard to guarantee an A in a foreign language
* - its worse than that sounds, the education dept 'science subjects' also include design and technology, information and communications technology, business studies, graphics, textiles and food technology.