An active voter in my district, Dan, said I could post his email. I appreciated his thoughts and details.
Dear Representative Lifferth,
Thanks for your efforts to keep us, constituents, informed on your legislative work. I have a few comments regarding HB203 that provides incentives for hiring and paying teachers for STEM.
I did read the bill. Much of the bill answers many of my questions with the "S" and "M" of STEM.
It is the "T" and "E" areas of STEM that I have questions and comments that you should consider as you work through HB203.
I do not expect you to specifically respond to each or any of my comments or questions.
These teachers in "T" and "E" areas of STEM should require more than just BA/MA/PhD college degrees. They require additional industry and technical certifications; and in some areas, technical on hands experience for each at least the "T" and "E" of STEM. The issue is that qualifications for STEM teachers requires constant change in knowledge of the "T" and "E" due to newer technologies and processes.
My 40+ years of experience in the technical and engineering industry shows that the usual upper education institutions cannot adapt quickly enough. K-12 has even more difficulty keeping up with the "T" and "E". An exception are the technical-based upper institutions, which are usually private (ITT as an example) and companies who provide technical certifications.
I have experience with STEM. For more than ten years I was a member of a citizen advisory committee for technology, engineering and vocational training in the Kent (Washington) School District (K-12).(1990-2004) The committee members were corporate managers, CEOs, private business owners and others with substantial industry experience in "T" and "E". Our mission was to assist the LEA in providing education opportunities for students to help them meet the technical and engineering requirements for the occupations offered in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area.
As a committee, we approved the curriculums, made recommendations to the LEA on funding, vetted the teachers' education, experience and performance, made recommendations on what the teachers needed to do to stay current with evolving technical certifications, and made recommendations for student technical and engineering certifications.
Most students began the programs in 8th grade. Many students completed technical certifications, and some were hired by local corporations during their high school years because of their education and certifications received in these programs. Some students moved on to college to acquire BA/MA/PhD in business with a focus on "T" and "E". "S" and "M" were educational areas that the students were expected to pass.
1. If the state provides the incentive pay then how will management and audits be handled? Will there be additional staff hired within the "board" (State Board of Education) to oversee this program? Are there enough specifics in the bill to satisfy the state's independent auditor's requirements?
2. Beyond the background educational requirements found in the bill, will the "board" be stipulating the job description and type of background for a 'STEM teacher'? Is there a need for the legislature to specifically oversee how well the "board" manages this program?
3. Will the STEM education background require constant updates to the law to keep up with changes in any of the STEM areas? Will the "board" have approval to expand, change or eliminate the educational background?
4. Are there certain STEM topics that should not receive the incentive pay? For example, I feel that "computer science" is too vague for the "T" in STEM. I have a computer science degree from 1983. I assure you that the content of that education was outdated by the time I received the degree. The area of 'computer science' should reasonably match what future expectations, careers and requirements of the computer industry.
5. How will the qualifications be monitored, updated, and verified? Does the "board" need the ability defined in the law to take care of these actions?
6. Will the "board" be expected to be more specific in how it reviews specific requirements for certain "T" and "E" topics, If those topics require a teacher to have industry certification, then how will determining which "T" and "E" technical certification(s) are required, and the number of technical certifications be done?
7. Most of the certifications require initial testing and regular certification renewal. Will the "board" manage tracking how well LEAs are tracking this activity?
8. There is a substantial cost to most certifications. Will the state or the LEA pick up the cost for certifying or renewal?
9. Will the state or LEA cover repeat tests if a certification test or sections of a certification test needs to be retaken? People working in the private industry know that certain certifications are difficult and sometimes require several repeats in taking the certification tests.
10. There are multiple private companies that provide technical certification. Not all of these companies provide all certifications. How will the state manage the "RFx" process in determining which companies are on the 'approved list' for a specific technical certification?
11. What are the rules regarding a teacher's retention or staying in the teaching position? Can they be receiving the incentive this year and then quit teaching next year?
13. Will these teachers be required to teach other topics separate from their expected STEM? A teacher receiving incentive pay is expected to teach their specific STEM area.
14. Computer Science is too vague of a description of a teacher's qualification. Is the goal to provide students general overview of the multiple areas of computer science, or is it to help prepare the students for specific future career opportunities in computer science. If it is a general overview, then there is no need for incentive pay.
15. It is my layman's view that STEM is to prepare students to match the careers, opportunities, and requirements of the future. We need to give them opportunities to be 'employable' and prepare them for the constant job dynamics in our society.
There needs to be a reasonable balance of teachers with "S", "T", "E" and "M" backgrounds. There is nothing in the bill that addresses how the board will use the incentive pay to provide or encourage this mix. What prevents the "board" from distributing more incentive pay to one area over another? How does the board determine which STEM area needs more teachers?
Thanks for your conscientious support of our district.