Friday, February 03, 2006

Where there's smoke...?

NSF to make 2007 budget request announcement on monday

Ok, I take it back... DoE's Office of Science announced the 2007 budget request to Congress will have a 14% increase and it seems to include genuine new money for genuine fundamental research... better news than feared

Congress still has to act on it, and we have to see how much falls to earmarks, but this is promising. Congress has recently, if anything, put in more science funds that the White House requests.

NIST apparently also did well. Makes sense, they're very strong in nano and quantum info.

Hope NSF's Math, Astro and Physics division does well.

On the teacher initiative, I still honestly do not see how it is to be done.
There simply aren't enough math and physics major around to supply 100,000 people on short notice without a lot more reason that $380 million in incentives.
Only ~ 4,000 BScs in physics graduate each year in the US, and a little over 10,000 math majors.
About 1000 of those do physics related research, eventually (most with PhDs or MScs in addition), about 1000 go work in software, and substantially less than 1000 become teachers. That does not leave a lot of slack.

Total physical science workforce is tiny, you can't just pull 30,000 people out of the pool without crippling some other area of research. People who have the background but not used if for more than a decade are generally both well employed and rusty, they'd need a lot of refreshing to be ready to teach.

Further - that's 3 new teachers per existing teacher? Are they going to schools which currently lack AP math/physics teachers? Those are largely schools that have trouble attracting teachers in the first place - we're not talking Palo Alto High here. Further, employing 100,000 new teachers costs ~ $10 BILLION per year. Is that new money from somewhere or to come out existing high school budgets? So who will they cut?

Numbers flat out do not add up.
Reminds of the conversation I had in DC a few years ago which went something like , "no prob, we'll just hire a few thousand PhDs" - "well, they don't exist, there are only a little over 1000 physics PhDs per year, and you're not going to get all of them".
Didn't go far - some people are convinced that just offering more money will work (not that they were going to have the necessary budget), but the reality is that short of a Manhattan Project level worldwide emergency, most physics PhDs are perfectly content to stay put or make minor internal career moves, not up an move wholesale by the thousands.
Unless forced to.

UPDATE: Pharyngula has a pointer to an analysis at Mirocat
So they want to retrain new teachers (that was option #2 I think), well, that may get them 1000 new teachers, but most existing teachers don't have the time, inclination or aptitude to retrain to become advanced math or physics teachers.

UPDATE: NASA makes budget request 2007 announcement on monday also, just before NSF does (1pm vs 3pm)


NASA Administrator Michael Griffin will brief the media about the agency's FY 2007 budget at 10 a.m. PST, Monday, Feb. 6. Reporters are invited to observe a live broadcast of the budget news conference at NASA Headquarters in the main auditorium, Bldg. N-201, at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley.

Griffin will be joined by NASA's associate administrators for the space operations, science, aeronautics and exploration mission directorates for the 90-minute event. Following the news conference, local reporters at NASA Ames are invited to attend a media roundtable to discuss the budget with Marvin (Chris) Christensen, who has been designated to serve as the acting NASA Ames center director. The media roundtable will begin after the NASA administrator's briefing at approximately 11:30 a.m. PST, in the Jack Boyd Committee Room, Bldg. N-200.

The news conference will be broadcast live on NASA TV. Please note that only reporters at NASA headquarters will be able to ask questions during the briefing. NASA directorates and offices will take budget phone queries after the news conference. The NASA budget will be available on the Web Monday at 10 a.m. PST at:


Blogger Dark Wraith said...

Good afternoon, Steinn.

First of all, allow me very belatedly to welcome you to the Blogosphere. We lack a sufficient number of blogs that attend regularly and carefully to the matters you address.

Now, down to a rant masquerading as a comment. The problem with the numbers of math and science teachers is not that there is a shortage: 'shortage' from an economics standpoint implies a non-market distortion that imposes an effective price ceiling below the equilibrium price that would clear the amount being supplied with that being demanded. In the present matter, a shortage would exist only if it could be argued that the factor price for teachers was less than what would exist in an unregulated market.

That, I would argue, would be difficult to establish: private schools—a market in which no argument can be made that government- or majority voting bloc-imposed salary distortions exist—pay less than public schools.

The price being paid to teachers is, unfortunately, creating no shortage. It is instead constructing a long-term catastrophe, particularly since simplistic, short-term solutions keep getting piled, one atop the last, on the fiasco.

The problem is no better at the college level. One of my specializations is teaching remedial and "developmental" math; in other words, I am charged with accomplishing in a matter of months what was left unaccomplished over twelve or more years of formal, pre-college education.

The students come in droves; and no fewer are arriving now than did before the "No Child Left Behind" initiative. In fact, the kids are even more of a mess, now, because they are rammed through pass-the-test-at-all-costs curriculum scope and sequence without the least regard to solid, years-long skills development appropriate at each grade to both emotional and mathematical maturity level.

And that has become the second problem now looming on the horizon: schools rushing to prove how butch their math programs are now begin to ram high-level material into the students at lower and lower grade levels. It does no good, because—even if it could be argued that some emotional maturity level has been attained—the mathematical maturity level (which exists in a matrix of cultural, social, and other parameters) just isn't there. It just isn't. More to the point, teachers cannot magically change the parameters, so teachers cannot construct the necessary effect to proceed with getting kids to do calculus while in diapers.

So what's going to happen? More of the same will be forthcoming: kids who cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence, much less a cogent, essay-length review and analysis; students who have no essential sense of how numbers work in basic mathematical operations (oh, but they'll be able to apply math to "real world" nonsense); parents who will drift in their own fog of self-indulgent materialism conveyed to their kids in everything from electronic noise addiction to crippled attention-at-length skills; and politicians (both Republican and Democrat) who will preen themselves before the voters with yet another round of disgraceful funding tied to useless, ill-informed, git-tuff-on-them-kids education mandates.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. For my 25 years as a math teacher, I'll also be making under $20,000 a year to work miracles.

Thank God I also teach other subjects.

The Dark Wraith bids you well, Steinn.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'd want my children taught mathematics by "The Dark Wraith". Do your homework Johnny, or I'll eat your soul!

Anyway, I think the real tragedy here is the ever greater number of Undead who are taking away jobs from decent, hard-working Americans. I mean, maybe the Legion of the Damned were once Americans, but they've shuffled off now, and it's high time to confiscate their passports. That's why I'm voting for the candidate who promises to build higher walls around cemetaries.


4:12 PM  
Blogger Dark Wraith said...

No, Sipior. If a student doesn't do his or her homework, I'll eat that student's ass.

And in a most public manner.

The Dark Wraith has few students who wish to test this as a hypothesis.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Plaid Lich wishes to hear more about this ass-eating! The Plaid Lich was a public school teacher, until government funding cuts forced the cancellation of his necromancy curriculum. Wise men know that little children carry their souls in the buttocks---their moist, tender, soulful buttocks!

The Plaid Lich

9:10 PM  

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