Obama Unveils $1 Billion ‘Master’ Teacher Plan to Boost Achievement in Science and Math

The president’s new initiative will reward outstanding STEM educators.

President Barack Obama speaks with students in a classroom at Manchester Central High School in Manchester, NH, in 2007. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Jul 18, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

The Obama administration announced new plans to invest $1 billion in an elite corps of “master teachers” to improve the nation’s standing in subjects such as science, technology, engineering, and math.

The program will start with 2,500 outstanding teachers in these disciplines across 50 sites and expand to 10,000 master teachers over the next four years. Designed to encourage and support teachers, the STEM Master Teacher Corps will reward instructors with annual stipends up to $20,000 on top of their regular salaries.

“If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support,” President Barack Obama said in a statement

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One major goal behind the program is to push American kids toward the top when it comes to science and math achievement, closing the gap with other countries and preparing them for jobs in these high-growth fields. Salaries in STEM fields are comparatively higher than in non-STEM jobs, while unemployment rates are comparatively lower, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Groups such as the National Science Teachers Association and STEM Education Coalition have applauded Obama’s move. The NSTA called the improvement “essential” for maintaining the U.S.’s competitive technological edge.

However, getting congressional approval for a project with such a hefty price tag might be difficult. The $1 billion in “new money” expected to support the program is part of the president’s 2013 budget request currently before Congress. While both political parties placed science and math education as much more of a priority five or six years ago, the current economic crisis makes budget approval much more of a challenge, explained James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition.

Nothing has a greater impact on students in the classroom and in their future careers than having a great teacher.

The administration also plans to immediately put $100 million toward the existing Teacher Incentive Fund, to help school districts develop and use effective STEM teachers.

“We must do more to ensure that teaching is highly respected and supported as a profession, and that accomplished, effective teachers are guiding students’ learning in every classroom,” the Obama administration said in their announcement about the program.

Exceptional teachers who commit to the multiyear project will be tasked with helping mentor and support their fellow STEM teachers, who can then improve their instruction in their own classes.

“It’s great to see the president propose this teacher initiative,” Brown told TakePart. “A lot of research on this subject has shown that nothing has a greater impact on students in the classroom and in their future careers than having a great teacher.”

Do you think this program is worth the investment? Let us know in the comments.

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