As Published In
Oracle Magazine
January/February 2008

COMMUNITY: Commitment


Formula for Success

By Aaron Lazenby

Oracle promotes teacher training to improve math and science education.

Linus Pauling's molecular biology. Gordon E. Moore's oft-cited Law. Grace Hopper's UNIVAC compiler. Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. Such high-profile breakthroughs by American scientists belie the truth about the state of math and science education in the United States. In fact, according to a 2003 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, the performance of American students is average, compared to other industrialized countries—ranking behind England, Singapore, and the Russian Federation but ahead of Italy, Scotland, and the Philippines.

Teacher turnover is one of the key factors influencing the quality of education in U.S. elementary and middle schools. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, almost half of America's new teachers leave the profession during their first five years. This brain drain puts further stress on limited school district budgets, thwarts the introduction of new teaching methods, and prevents schools from preparing for impending retirements of teachers. So students suffer.

"It is a big concern," says Mark Ellis, assistant professor of secondary education at California State University, Fullerton. "One of the reasons people leave the profession is that they end up feeling sort of isolated, that they are stuck out there on their own, often without adequate preparation for what they should know and be able to do." Ellis, himself a former middle school math teacher and a National Board Certified Teacher, believes that National Board Certification could help reverse troubling trends in teacher attrition.

Average Not Enough 

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 Oracle's Commitment

 National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Merely average performance in math and science is not enough to drive the next generation of IT innovation, so Oracle executives have developed a particular interest in this issue. "Long-term investment in student math and science skills is good for the economy in general, and it is good for Oracle in particular," says Rosalie Gann, director, Oracle Global Corporate Citizenship. "Research shows that promoting professional development plays a direct role in improving student performance—and we're happy to find a partner that shares our concerns."

In 2007 Oracle teamed up with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the quality of teaching and learning through professional standards, to create a professional development program to reduce attrition among math and science teachers in the U.S. by connecting teachers with their peers, providing teaching resources, and promoting National Board Certification. Oracle awarded the NBPTS a US$1 million Commitment Grant to create the Oracle Professional Development Initiative to Improve Math Education, designed to identify the challenges teachers face in teaching math and to create a collection of online and in-person professional development sessions. Through lectures, roundtable discussions, video presentations, and software tools, the initiative will encourage teachers to a develop a deeper understanding of effective math teaching practices, based on National Board Certification math standards.

To determine where math and science teachers are experiencing challenges, NBPTS analysts mined an Oracle database containing four years of certification entries. These findings will be analyzed by education experts and board-certified teachers to create the core curriculum behind the initiative, which is scheduled for rollout among math teachers by the start of the 2009 school year.

"Research shows that National Board Certified Teachers have proven that they know their subject matter and can successfully teach it," says Joseph A. Aguerrebere, president and CEO, NBPTS. "Working with Oracle, we hope to elevate the performance of math educators and math students."

 




Aaron Lazenby is a director with Oracle Publishing.


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