Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Licensure Regulations for School Personnel [8 VAC 20 ‑ 22]
Action Comprehensive Revision of the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 11/6/2015
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10/15/15  8:22 am
Commenter: Donald Williams

Proposed Engineering Endorsement

I am a professional engineer. I am also a CTE teacher at Phoebus High School in Hampton. I teach two Project Lead the Way engineering classes and two years of Robotics.  I have been teaching for 22 years. I support the proposed 8VAC20-543-280 and 8VAC20-23-330. If passed, I believe these changes will improve engineering education in Virginia. The rationale for endorsing a new engineering program and licensing includes the following:

1. Engineering is a separate subject. It is NOT science, math or even technology. We have a wide assortment of technology education courses for those students who are interested in the broad study of technology. Many of these serve the purpose of teaching technological literacy. Our country recognizes the importance of engineering, but it is a near fatal flaw to think a science,  math or technology teacher can teach engineering. Placing engineering in the Technology Education curriculum may have seemed appropriate in the past, but it should now evolve to the distinct discipline that it really is.

2. Technology Education (TE) teachers are well trained for many of the general courses in technology education. They are not trained as engineers or even possess rudimentary levels of knowledge in the physics and engineering topics involved in courses such as Project Lead the Way (PLTW). PLTW attempts to train teachers in their courses, but an 80 hour summer training is insufficient time to expect a candidate teacher to actually understand statics, dynamics, kinematics, thermodynamics, electricity/electromagnetics, electronics, fluid mechanics, etc. I have watched teachers in these summer trainings who don’t know the subject matter even when the training concludes. It must be realized, but it is rarely explained, that the PLTW summer training courses ONLY require the teacher to DO the same content that the student will do in the school year. It doesn’t teach anything beyond the course itself. Shouldn’t the teacher have knowledge beyond the course he/she is teaching?

3. Virginia’s engineering courses are taught by any TE teacher available to teach the course, with no training in any formal or informal engineering program. Any engineer could identify these teachers when they see them teach a topic that they only know superficially. Imagine a class where a student asks a reasonable question that is “just beyond” what is covered in their high school textbook. Most TE teacher’s won’t have a clue. Teachers don’t have to know everything, but they should be competent in their subject. Engineering subject matter is still “taught” by the teacher with the aid of a textbook. We don’t expect students in math and science courses to “discover” the answers to all their questions.

4. The current status of TE teachers standing in the classroom teaching engineering does a disservice to both students and engineering. Students see mildly competent or incompetent adults in the role of engineering expert. Students are taught that building mousetrap cars, CO2 cars, paper airplanes, balsa bridges, etc is engineering. Many of these “projects” are poorly conceived because students are hardly taught the connection between the science and math (ie. no calculations) to their design. That’s not engineering! We aren’t preparing students well enough to pass engineering school in college. I’m not sure currently whether curriculum for high school engineering courses like PLTW are more limited by the student’s or the teacher’s abilities. This should never be the case!

5. We could verify this lack of knowledge in those who are teaching our students engineering. Ask the teachers of engineering courses to pass an AP Physics test. Physics is the science associated with most of the applications of engineering taught in high school engineering courses. They could also try a combined Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Statistics test. Or as a comprehensive test, they could try the Fundamentals of Engineering exam given to engineering school graduates. I am certain the majority of those teachers who would not meet the licensing requirements of the proposed engineering endorsement (as outlined in 8VAC20-23-330) would fail the test. Why do we let them teach a subject that they don’t understand?

6. The arguments made for keeping engineering in TE are simplistic:

  1. One argument made for keeping engineering in TE is that they’re already doing it. This is the logical fallacy of circular reasoning.

  2. They also claim to teach the engineering design process (practically a mantra for state TE and VTEEA representatives). That flow chart is taught in the first week. But TE teachers don’t know how to do the FULL engineering design process because they can’t teach the required math and science and its application. Watch an engineering class and see how little (if any) calculations are done as part of a project. We are misleading students.

  3. We won’t be able to find the teachers to teach higher performing engineering classes. But this is actually an admission that current teacher are weak or incompetent.

  4. TE teacher colleges can’t use the word “engineering” in the title of their courses. This is because the school of engineering knows the sharp differences in what is taught in college TE courses versus what is taught in actual engineering courses. So if we recognize that TE doesn’t really teach engineering in college, why do we pretend that it’s sufficient for high school?

  5. But TE courses currently teach “design”. Just because you have the word design in the curriculum, doesn’t make the course equal to engineering. Fashion Marketing and Art teach design. I don’t think anyone confuses these courses with engineering. TE design is just primitive size, shape and color at most. Again, it misleads students into thinking engineering can be divorced from math and science, calculations, and the depth of engineering discipline.

7. The turf war is really about money. Perkins funds are designated for CTE courses. So the current TE colleges and CTE directors use the scare tactic that engineering won’t get money from Perkins Act. If the Perkins funds are currently being properly spent on TE “engineering-like” courses now, then can’t they be used for engineering courses after these proposals are implemented? In the past, CTE has morphed from its roots in Industrial Arts and Vocational Education, absorbed ROTC, and includes the wide variety of endorsements that currently fall under CTE. Couldn’t CTE accept that the engineering endorsement is required to teach any course with engineering in the title (similar to what the colleges do with courses titles)? This would be a SIMPLE SOLUTION THAT JUST REQUIRES THE WILL TO DO IT. IT IS A CLEAR CHOICE TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN VIRGINIA.

Virginia will provide better education in engineering by raising the standards. Education and society call it STEM not STeM. Let’s make Virginia fulfill the “E” for engineering. Let’s make the discipline real.