Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A note on a connection between immigration and science


There is a heated discussion about how changes in immigration policy can affect science and engineering in the U.S.
1. Trying to STOP the influx of illegal immigrants by putting in place more and more restrictions of any kind is the same as trying to stop alcohol drinking by installing The Prohibition Law.
NEVER gonna work – due to the same reasons – human nature.
It’s like a drug trafficking will only end when those people who use drugs will stop using it, or all drugs will be legalized - but instead of drug consumers we should talk about business owners who hire those illegals (BTW: do you happen to know why?)
2. Thinking that putting in place more and more restrictions of any kind will STOP the influx of illegal immigrants is just na├»ve; it is a form of self–lying. In reality it will only lead to more sophisticated forms of corruption (again – have you heard of The Prohibition?).
3. The true problem with scientists, and engineers, and doctors is not related to immigration AT ALL – thinking that is also a form of self–lying; or deflecting an attention from an actual problem – which is: the U.S. just does not produce any more enough scientists, and engineers, and doctors.
For example, quote: “Nearly a half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad.”
We all know that America is a country of immigrants.
And America must stay an open to people who want to live and work in the Country.
We just need to remember that any large disbalance (like a trade deficit, or an intellectual deficit) is a potential danger to the country - might lead to such big changes like electing Donald Trump.
Think!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why do Science Teachers Leave a School?


“Why do science teachers leave a school?”
or

Numbers Say: The High School Physics Teachers Shortage Will Be Fixed In 130 Years.


According to this report


in 2013 about 40 % of high school students took a physics course.

According to this source



in 2013 there were close to 16,000,000 high school students in the U.S. That would give about 4,000,000 graduates. Forty percent of this number is equal to 1,600,000 students.

The more accurate number is 1,400,000; in 2013 this many high school students were enrolled in a physics course (thank you David Meltzer for finding out this information: see Appendix I).


Let’s use a very conservative estimation.

Let’s assume that each class had 30 students, and one teacher was teaching four classes. That gives us about 11,666 physics teachers.

According to PhysTec coalition


only 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education.

Which means, high schools need to hire about 7,777 properly prepared high school physics teachers.

 According again to PhysTec coalition, the members of the coalition gradate about 60 teachers per a year.


Keeping this pace, we need to wait for about 130 years until every high school in the U.S. will have a highly qualified physics teachers.

Please, note: we only talk here about a high school level, only about physics, and only about 40 % of students!
Adding middle school science teachers and including all students would quadruple the number.

Clearly, whatever PhysTec coalition is doing, will not help us to solve the problems of a science teachers shortage.

The problem even deepens if we take into an account the fact that many teachers do not stay in schools for a long time.

The Guardian says,


that too many of teachers leave the profession, and too few qualified professionals go into the profession.

If we assume that our calculations are correct, and The Guardian is right, the focus has to be shifted from teacher preparation to teacher retention and professional development of in-service teachers.

The next natural question to ask is why do teachers leave a school?

In the context of this publishing we should rephrase the question to: “Why do science teachers leave a school?”

What do we do these days when we need to find an answer to a question?

Of course!

We Google it!

But what does it mean if even Google does not have an answer?

It simply means there is no data on this matter; no one publishes on this matter; no one study this matter.

I could have been speculating and offering my own opinions, but why would anyone take my speculations seriously?

That is why I just stop here.

But if anyone would like to share their thoughts, please just post your comment!

“Why do science teachers leave a school?”
******

Appendix I
From David Meltzer 
On the number of high school students taking physics
Source:
Susan White and Casey Langer Tesfaye, High School Physics Courses & Enrollments: Results from the 2012­13 Nationwide Survey of High School Physics Teachers (AIP, College Park,
MD, 2014). Available at: https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/high­school­physics­courses­ enrollments­0
High School Physics Courses & Enrollments | American ... www.aip.org
This report examines enrollments in high school physics during the 2012­13 school year.
­­
Appendix II
From Jane Jackson
Why do teachers leave? Teacher morale has plummeted in recent years, with educators saying that school reform has made them the scapegoat for problems in public education.
According to a Sept. 2016 report by the Learning Policy Institute at Stanford University, most teachers who leave do so because of dissatisfaction ­­ ranging from physical conditions such as class sizes, facilities, and classroom resources ‹ to unhappiness with administrative practices, such as lack of support, classroom autonomy, or input to decisions ‹ to policy issues, such as the effects of testing and accountability. Assessments & accountability measures are the biggest dissatisfactions.
Reducing attrition by half could virtually eliminate shortages.
Fewer people are entering teacher preparation programs. Enrollments are down 35 percent and graduates dropped by 23 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Download the full report (Sept. 2016) at
https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/coming­crisis­teaching­brief

From me:
Jane Jackson makes a good point. Still, would be useful to see the ranking (!) of the factors of the teacher dissatisfaction. Also, the reports (one of which is this https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/solving-teacher-shortage) do not go beyond recommendation which have been offered in many previous reports and document. If those recommendations had not worked in the past, why would they suddenly start working this time? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What Would Businesses Do if No Foreign Students Could Come In the Country Anymore?


What Would Businesses Do if No Foreign Students Could Come In the Country Anymore?
In the 02/10/2017 issue, the Boston Globe printed a piece about prospective foreign students and the change in the mood they started to have (see the picture).
As soon as the ban was issued, many industry leaders expressed a strong opposition to it (e.g. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinanderton/2017/02/07/the-businesses-against-president-trumps-travel-ban-infographic/#1513a0353867).
On February 5, 2017 several large tech companies filed an Amicus Brief (https://app.box.com/s/09dvucfviag1zlwzekupts084xzc8j5g), which says, in part, that the ban: “makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees”.
It is not difficult to understand the worry the businesses and companies have, because a large part of the employment force they have comes from graduates who have foreign origins.
However, when the industry leaders say, that all they want is to be able to have the top talent from all over the world, they do not say the whole truth.
The truth is that currently a large part of the U.S. industry is not just looking for the top talent, but is “addicted” to professionals with a foreign origin, in a similar way it – the industry – was not long time ago addicted to the foreign oil. The truth is that without professionals with a foreign origin many industries would be on a brink of collapsing, or at least of a severe downsizing.
It is not a news that businesses are in a great need for a highly professional workforce. “According to a 2016 survey of 400 employers from across Massachusetts, 75% said that it was difficult to find people with the right skills to hire in Massachusetts.” “Respondents find deficiencies in the readiness of new hires, not just in “applied skills” like teamwork, critical thinking and communications, but also in simple reading, writing, and math.” These were quotes from a 2016 MassINC Polling Group report, done for Massachusetts Business Roundtable (http://www.mbae.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FINAL-Report-2016-MBAE-Employer-Poll-for-web.pdf).
Businesses have to turn to graduates with a foreign origin simply because U.S. colleges do not produce enough graduates with degrees in STEM-related fields.
“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent in 2014 from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent” (from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-17/more-stem-degrees-going-to-foreign-students).
“Nearly a half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad.”
Out recent search for a laboratory manager position attracted a large number of prospective candidates.
The positions requires  masters degree, but many applicants have a PhD which they got in the U.S., but after getting the masters in their own country. 
This explains why many industry and business leaders are looking for the ways to lowering barriers for graduates with a student visa preventing them from staying in the U.S.
However, there is no similar attention to the root of the problem, i.e. the low number “of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering”.
Imagine just for the moment that the Trump administration did find a way to close the borders in such a way that many prospective foreign students got scared and decided not to go in the U.S. Imagine the worst-case scenario; we all know that despite the best efforts there is a chance for a terrorist to conduct a terror attack on the U.S. soil. If that would happen, the general mood in the country could quickly swing toward the toughening all restrictions for crossing the borders.
Without an access to a pool of graduates with a foreign origin, industry and business leaders would have turn to U.S. citizens and permanent residents for filling up many empty professional positions. And then they would find out that U.S. colleges and universities just do not produce the sufficient number of graduates!
And its’ not like no one knew the problem.
Since 1957 (i.e. since the launch of the Sputnik 1) the U.S. system of education has been in a state of a permanent reformation.
The question which industry and business leaders should ask: “Why the Hell after 60 years of reforming education we still cannot rely on our own graduates?” (clearly, in this sentence, to stress my point I used an exaggeration).
It is one thing, if you have 100 vacancies, and you have 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 100 “domestic” applicants. In this case – yes – you are searching for the best talent. But when you have 100 vacancies, 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 0 qualified “domestic” applicants – it is a clear sign that the system is broken.
Obviously, we have to make a conclusion that so far the methods used at all levels of the government and philanthropy to reform education have not worked. If those methods have not worked for such a long period of time, there is not much of a hope they will miraculously start working tomorrow.
Maybe, industry and business leaders should not wait until the hypothetical border tightening becomes real, and start rethinking their strategies and approaches related to education, because otherwise the shortage in the highly professional workforce can bring a heavy damage to the U.S. economy.
We must make U.S. intellectually independent from importing foreign professionals. We need to treat intellectual health of a country with the same level of urgency we treat physical health of the country. We need to set a goal: to break the U.S. dependence on the foreign intellectuals (in the way the U.S. has become practically independent from the foreign oil). Only then we can say that the U.S. companies truly search for the best talent.