The problem is well-known: The U.S. lags far behind other developed countries at the K-12 level in terms of measured performance in math and science courses.
What can be done to change that? The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray posed that question to three experts: Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; and Christopher Edley Jr., dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, who was also a member of the Obama administration transition team working on education issues.
Here are edited excerpts of their discussion:
It’s the Teachers
ALAN MURRAY: What will it take to get the American system up to the level of some of the other developed countries in terms of math and science education?
JOEL KLEIN: The most important thing is to bring to K-12 education college graduates who excel in math and science. Those countries that are doing best are recruiting their K-12 teachers from the top third of their college graduates. America is recruiting our teachers generally from the bottom third, and when you go into our high-needs communities, we’re clearly underserving them.
MR. MURRAY: How do you explain that? It doesn’t seem to be a function of money. We spend more than any of these other countries.
MR. KLEIN: We spend it irrationally. My favorite example is, I pay teachers, basically, based on length of service and a few courses that they take. And I can’t by contract pay math and science teachers more than I would pay other teachers in the system, even though at different price points I could attract very different people. We’ve got to use the money we have much more wisely, attract talent, reward excellence.