Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Department of Education
Board
State Board of Education
chapter
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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11/2/15  2:24 pm
Commenter: Donald Williams P.E.

Engineering endorsement clarifications
 

I am Donald Williams P.E. I have 17 years of experience as a mechanical engineer, project manager and department head. I designed automated material handling systems for 7 years, and then worked in architecture and engineering for 10 years. I left this voluntarily to become a high school teacher. I now have 22 years of experience teaching such varied courses as the middle school tech ed series, Principles of Physics, all four semesters of Cisco CCNA computer networking, Virginia’s version of Introduction to Engineering, Robotics I and II, and PLTW Introduction to Engineering Design, PLTW Digital Electronics, PLTW Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and PLTW Engineering Design and Development. I also have coached Phoebus High School’s award winning FIRST Robotics Competition team 2028 for 10 years.

I think there are many good points being discussed about the proposed Engineering endorsement. I give all the commenters the credit for their benevolent intentions in regards to education of our youth. Only a few of the comments on this Town Hall or at the BoE meeting on Oct 22 used such emotionally charged words such as “shame” and “inferiority”, or resorted to “leprechaun and unicorn” insults. I’m confident most of us recognize in each other the sincere desire to promote engineering education in Virginia whether we eventually “win” or “lose” in this decision.

I do see a few recurring comments from those opposed to the regulation that should be addressed:

1. The most disturbing claims are those who speak as if the regulations will require the teacher to be an engineer. That is a misunderstanding that is easily clarified by reading the actual text of 8VAC20-23-330:

3. Earned a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university and completed an engineering technology, science, or technology education major with at least 12 semester hours of coursework in engineering courses, including:

a. Introduction to engineering design;

b. Statics or dynamics;

c. Circuits or fluid mechanics; and

d. Thermodynamics”

8VAC20-23-330 options 1 and 4 also allow alternative paths to engineering endorsement that don’t require being an engineer. This is certainly not limiting this endorsement to only engineering professionals.

If you look at the requirements for a Technology Education endorsement, we find in 8VAC20-23-270:

“3. Earned a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a major in one of the following fields of study: architecture, design, engineering, engineering technology, industrial technology, or physics and completed a minimum of 15 semester hours of technology education content coursework, including at least 3 semester hours in each of the following areas:

a. The nature of technology;

b. Technology and society;

c. Engineering;

d. Abilities for a technological world; and

e. The designed world.

 

Notice that it requires 15 credits in various Tech Ed courses even if the candidate already has an engineering or engineering technology degree. This is an irrational double standard, yet it is the Tech Ed teachers and their professional organizations who are complaining. Also, if you search the requirements for many endorsements you will find varying amounts of credit hours required to obtain most endorsements. That Engineering requires 12 credits is actually on the low end of the scale. Some are as high as 18 credits.

A related item is the claim that an “engineer off the streets” could be fully licensed without education/pedagogical training. The proposed endorsement as with all endorsements addresses only the discipline or technical qualifications.  This gets a teacher candidate a three-year non-renewable provisional license.  The collegiate professional 5-year renewable license will continue to require professional education courses for engineering teachers just as for any other teacher.

2. Another common argument is that high school engineering offers exploratory courses. There are at least three problems with this:

  • PLTW says its courses are college level credit worthy. From their site it says, “More than 150 institutions of higher education actively recruit PLTW students and provide recognition opportunities, including admissions preference, scholarships, and course credit.” It can’t be exploratory and equal to a first or second year college course. Yet they still fall short of college level because most students don’t actually get college credit. This situation would be helped by having engineering teachers with a stronger background in engineering and/or engineering education.
  • For example, look at the curriculum of PLTW’s Digital Electronics or Computer Integrated Manufacturing. College students have come back and proclaimed how similar these two courses were to college courses they took. They are far too rigorous to be called exploratory courses and well beyond Tech Ed’s lite exploratory courses.
  • Some want to keep the course attractive to more students and fun. “Easy” “build a Rube Goldberg device” engineering courses mislead students. Some may not like the marketplace’s determination of status and value, but the laws of supply and demand, the level of math and science required in the first year, and dropout rates argue that engineering is one of the more difficult degrees. Once we accept that these courses are not exploratory, we recognize that they should be preparing high school students for the rigor of college engineering programs.

3. “We already teach engineering and we have for 20 years!” claim the Tech Ed teachers and their organizations. Many of the state’s Tech Ed “engineering” courses are still marginally approaching the level of math, science and engineering that are appropriate to a course that intends to prepare students for college engineering school. PLTW courses are significantly closer but they run into the problem of high school Tech Ed teacher training. They attempt to solve this problem by an 80-hour summer course. But this course only walks the teacher through the same 135-hour course the student will take. I have seen this in all four PLTW summer training courses I’ve attended, and the same has been reported by my fellow PLTW teachers in my school system. So at the end of the school year, the student may know as much as the teacher.

None of the opponents of this proposed Engineering endorsement have shown how or where a Tech Ed teacher learns anything more about engineering than this rudimentary level of education. Engineering is a recognized profession outside of this limited discussion as it pertains to the proposed endorsement. It’s certainly unusual to suggest that the high level of knowledge required to be an engineer is just “picked up” along the course of teaching Tech Ed.

The current CTE - Technology Education endorsement (8VAC20-23-270.3) only requires actual coursework in engineering for those who are being endorsed through an existing degree in “architecture, design, engineering, engineering technology, industrial technology, or physics.” 8VAC20-23-270.2.c speaks of engineering as vague “comprehension of the attributes of technological design.” 8VAC20-23-270.2.a even attests to engineering as another field. Virginia’s Tech Ed teacher colleges do not teach engineering. Engineering is taught at the various schools of engineering.

This isn’t allowed in any core subject endorsement. Bringing Engineering into the K12 arena will improve the status of the professional relationship with math and science core subjects and thus raise the potential for real collaboration with peer level teachers.

4. In the flurry of objection, no one has offered that there may be an easy compromise for current Tech Ed teachers. 8VAC20-23-70 (common to all endorsement paths) seems to indicate that once an Engineering endorsement is created, a Praxis II test will be made that allows a Tech Ed teacher to skip the coursework and use the test as the means to become endorsed in Engineering. This test will have to be different than the current Tech Ed Praxis II test because the subject matter of engineering is different than that of tech ed. The test will have to be written by Engineering educators and the engineering community. It might look like a short version of the general Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that many engineering majors take as they are completing their undergraduate coursework. The coursework and the test will evolve as engineering courses are disentangled from Tech Ed courses. Assuming that some of the current Tech Ed teachers will pass this test, we will have done a service to the students of Virginia public schools. Those teachers who can pass the test will be able to keep teaching Engineering courses. Those who can’t pass the test shouldn’t be teaching engineering. Anecdotes about some individual who is a great engineering teacher but who can’t pass a test doesn’t stand up to even the standard for Virginia high school students. They have to pass high stakes tests to “prove” their educational merit for a diploma.

So Virginia’s Tech Ed teachers, directors, and professional organizations like to speak about CTE as a leader in the past in engineering. But they shun this next evolutionary step. Let’s make engineering education in Virginia a leader for the future. Let’s require highly qualified and highly educated teachers for the demanding discipline of engineering.