Arizona State University is producing fewer teachers certified in math and science. The Morrison Institute for Public Policy released a report today that examined trends in ASU performance measures, such as new science and math teachers, that may be affected by a funding measure, Proposition 301, which voters approved five years ago.
The measure provides the universities with $50 million a year over 20 years to boost science initiatives with the goal of strengthening Ari- zona’s knowledge economy, whose growth hinges on scientific and technological development.
Last school year, 42 of the postsecondary education students at ASU obtained certification in math or science areas. That’s down 14 percent from the 2003-04 school year, according to the report, “Enriching Arizona’s Knowledge Economy.”
While the money from Proposition 301 has enabled ASU to obtain more research grants, sell more patents and increase publications of research, it’s unclear how the measure is affecting the production of new teachers specializing in science and math, analysts from the institute said.
“With that particular initiative, I’m not sure what happened because that’s not something that we’ve been tracking ourselves,” said Rick Heffernon, lead author of the report.
Joan Sherwood, a spokeswoman for ASU’s College of Education, said the university is aware of the shortage of math and science teachers. She said it is trying to address the problem through new programs, such as its Summer Certification Institute in Secondary Mathematics, which offers mathematics majors a dual degree in education, teaching certification, with a B.A. or B.S. in math.
State, university and school officials said the decline of new teachers graduating ASU who are certified in math and science is reflective of the shrinking pool of science and math teachers across the country.
Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, blamed the shortage on low teacher pay and a lack of administrative support for teachers coping with discipline problems.
The median salary for a high school mathematical science teacher in Arizona is $46,610 a year, federal labor statistics show. But an industry job in mathematics or computers in this state pays about $59,560 annually, and $62,210 to engineers.
Legislators on the House K-12 Education Committee supported a bill to boost annual teacher pay by $2,500, but nothing has come of it.
The shortage of science and math teachers “is a gathering crisis,” Horne warned.
The problem couldn’t come at a more difficult time for public schools. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires states to begin testing students in science by next school year.
Plus, all teachers must be “highly qualified” — certified in the subject areas that they teach — or some schools may face federal penalties.
Meanwhile, state and business leaders want to broaden Arizona’s economy beyond its traditional industries, such as tourism, by attracting companies in scientific research and technology.
But that economic growth could be hindered by the state’s reputation for low student achievement in public schools, said Daniel Kain, dean of Northern Arizona University’s education college.
“We have to get good schools to lure those companies so they’ll want to come here,” he said.
The Morrison Institute mentioned several gains made at ASU that it believes were due to the Proposition 301 money. Analysts noted that ASU made $893,000 from licenses and patent royalties — 11 times more than was made the previous year.
ASU also obtained more than $21 million in research grants last fiscal year — a 165 percent increase since fiscal year 2001.
And 10 companies cited the the university as a reason for locating their operations in the state.
The Morrison Institute for Public Policy says Arizona should:
• Consider ways to increase productivity and talent in math and science.
• Boost efforts to produce more Arizona workers skilled in science and technology.
• Survey the state’s overall attitude toward science and technology.
• Find out why some research initiatives reap more revenue than others.