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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10/21/15  10:36 am
Commenter: Douglas Bitterman

Proposed Engineering Endorsement

I appreciate the opportunity to submit these comments in strong support of the proposed engineering endorsement (8VAC20-23-330) for high school teachers in Virginia.

I am an Engineer that has been employed with the global engineering firm CH2M HILL for the past 26 years, all as a resident of Virginia. I have a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and specialize in the investigation and remediation of environmental contamination. I have also been actively involved for more than 10 years via a managerial role I hold at my company in promoting STEM education in Virginia, particularly the 'E' in STEM. In this role I have directly engaged as a speaker on engineering topics in numerous K-12 classrooms, elected to sponsor STEM-related programs such as FIRST Robotics at several schools, and currently serve as a Board Member of the Virginia Beach Education Foundation. I also previously served as the Chair of the Education Committee of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Virginia Chapter. This Committee’s mission is to promote the 'E' in STEM in the Commonwealth of Virginia on behalf of the consulting engineering community.

During my term as the Education Chair of ACEC Virginia, I was fortunate to play a role in helping to promote the 'E' in STEM in a variety of ways, including ACEC Virginia's sponsorship and my involvement with the annual Virginia Children's Engineering Convention, and via support for the proposed engineering endorsement. The primary reason the Virginia engineering community supports this endorsement is due to the difficulties engineering firms face with respect to workplace hiring. This difficulty is caused in part by a lack of sufficient numbers of students choosing to pursue college-level education and careers in engineering following the completion of their K-12 education. In order to remedy this situation, my perspective is that the engineering community would like to see:

1. Significantly more opportunities in Virginia’s K-12 school system for students to be exposed to instruction in Engineering, and

2. Virginia K-12 students receive the educational foundation sufficient to more successfully pursue Engineering at the university level.

The engineering endorsement is an important first step to achieving these goals because it addresses two critical issues that are problematic in Virginia’s K-12 education system:

1. Assuring that high school engineering teachers are highly qualified in engineering subject matter. The technology education leadership in Virginia took the initiative decades ago and helped introduce engineering concepts into K-12 education in the Commonwealth, and that contribution has been invaluable. However, in the 21st century, this is no longer good enough. Engineering is a fundamentally different discipline than both science and technology. Other commenters that have preceded me (that are Engineers) understand this and have pointed out the important and substantial differences between Engineering and these other disciplines, so I won't repeat them here. More true Engineering courses that properly introduce K-12 students to Engineering are needed both to promote the career path and to prepare students for the very rigorous programs of instruction required to achieve college degrees in Engineering. From the decaying infrastructure problems looming over the U.S. to the ever more complex, global issues facing mankind, many more Engineers are needed than our education system is currently producing to innovate and to design the solutions to these problems. And in order to have more true Engineering courses and to properly teach our current Engineering courses, such as those within the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) program, we need teachers that are highly qualified to teach Engineering, working alongside the technology education teachers that so ably teach existing coursework in technology and applied technology.

2. Removing barriers to engineering majors teaching in Virginia’s high schools. The current endorsement scenario where Engineering is inappropriately viewed as a technology education discipline is a significant barrier for Engineers who wish to teach. An Engineer already fully qualified to teach Engineering based on their degree in Engineering is forced to complete an additional 12 hours of technology education courses in order to meet the requirement for a technology education endorsement. This makes no sense. This barrier must be removed in order to bring more Engineers into the teaching profession and to lay the foundation for more true Engineering coursework to be added to high school curricula across the Commonwealth.

I have read the earlier comments posted by some members of the technology education community arguing for preservation of the status quo, and there are several recurring assertions in these comments that I believe are incorrect and warrant a response:

1. Claim: Engineers will not want to teach because they can make much more money elsewhere. This is a very cynical viewpoint that presumes that people with engineering degrees are motivated predominantly by financial considerations more than people with degrees in science, math, or technology. The irony is that people with a technology background sufficient to be qualified as a technology education teacher could also make substantially more money than teaching by pursuing a job in advanced manufacturing, with a firm offering technology services, or through many other avenues. In my view, it is the barriers that currently exist for majors in Engineering to obtain a teaching endorsement, as explained above, that are the primary impediment for Engineers to become teachers. If those barriers were removed, and Engineers could become teachers without the significant added investment of 12 or more credit hours of unnecessary coursework to achieve an endorsement that doesn’t even reflect their discipline, the candidate pool would grow.

2. Claim: Schools cannot sustain a full-time Engineer as a teacher because there are so few engineering classes that they would need to teach other courses. This is a valid issue, but one that I view as having relatively easy and potentially win-win solutions. Where necessary, Engineers are natural candidates to round out their schedules by teaching science or math classes, for which it also can be difficult to find enough teaching candidates. All degreed engineers have very strong backgrounds in physics and mathematics. And the specific engineering disciplines add on top of that significant coursework in other sciences. For example, all Chemical Engineers have an extremely strong chemistry background, as will a Geotechnical Engineer in Earth Sciences. Ideally, the science and mathematics teaching endorsements would be amended to recognize that Engineers have substantial science and math coursework as part of their degrees and to eliminate unnecessary barriers for them to meet the requirements of the various science and math teaching endorsements as long as they have achieved at least a minimum number of credit hours in specific science or math coursework (e.g., a minimum of 18 credit hours). But even absent that, it is highly likely an Engineer, given his or her very strong science and mathematics background, could achieve a science or mathematics teaching endorsement without much difficulty by taking the relevant Praxis II exam(s). And I would also argue that science and math teachers with an engineering background would enhance instruction in these disciplines by being in a unique position to credibly point out to students by example how the theory in science and math can be directly applied to real-world innovation and problem-solving, potentially causing students to be more interested and engaged in science and math coursework. Of course, if Engineers would like to teach technology education coursework in addition to Engineering, then it would be appropriate for them to complete the requirements to obtain a technology education endorsement in addition to their engineering endorsement.

3. Claim: The proposed engineering endorsement will somehow restrict engineering courses to a select few students who plan to be engineers versus all students that would benefit from exposure to engineering. This point of view is illogical, and is illustrative of the fundamental lack of understanding of the differences between Engineering and Technology that is unfortunately so pervasive in the technology education community. Other than some of the coursework in the PLTW program, there are very few courses currently being offered in Virginia high schools that are actually true Engineering courses, and that includes some with the word "Engineering" in the course title. These include technology education classes that touch on the concept of engineering design, but do not delve into the connection between science and math and the design process to the extent necessary to be considered true Engineering courses. That said, these technology education courses are absolutely needed, and the proposed engineering endorsement should not and will not impact the ability for technology education classes to be offered or for technology education teachers to teach them. But the objective of the proposed engineering endorsement is to establish the necessary foundation for more true Engineering courses to be offered in Virginia high schools in addition to these technology education classes. This can't happen unless teachers of Engineering are fully qualified and competent to do so.

In conclusion, I would like to share an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch I read the other day that illustrates how the status quo is not working to achieve the 21st century workforce that Virginia needs to be competitive in the global marketplace. Our education system is the most critical element in building that workforce and providing opportunities for the residents of the Commonwealth to be as successful as possible. The full article can be viewed at: The article in part describes Governor McAuliffe's attempts to woo major companies to bring jobs to Virginia and quotes him as saying: "I can't bring in jobs unless we have the workforce. That is the secret sauce." The article specifically mentions Governor McAuliffe's conversation with the CEO of Canon, which earlier this year announced a $100 million investment in its Newport News, Virginia facility and is currently looking to locate a new research and development center. The Governor made a pitch to the executive for the project to be located in Virginia. Governor McAuliffe indicated that the CEO replied that Canon is currently struggling to fill 18 engineering jobs in Newport News, and stated: "He said if you can't fill those, how are you possibly going to handle my new R&D facility? Which is a very powerful statement."

Please enact the proposed requirements in 8VAC20-23-330 and establish an engineering endorsement for high school teachers in Virginia as a small but important step forward.