A Survey of State Initiatives
Maryland is experiencing a particularly severe shortage of earth-science teachers, as well as a shortage of mathematics teachers.
Forty percent of all the state's high-school earth-science classes are being taught by unqualified teachers, said Susan Snyder, the science specialist at the state department of education. Three districts cannot fill their vacancies in earth science at all. Physics teachers are also in short supply, and unqualified teachers are teaching in 27 percent of the state's physics classrooms.
In math, at least 400 unqualified teachers are now in classrooms, according to June Danaher, the state's math specialist. At the middle-school level, 75,000 students are being taught by teachers considered unqualified. When school opened last fall, there were 70 vacancies in math teaching and 66 more developed during the year.
At present, there are only 17 teacher candidates in state colleges preparing to teach math, and not all of those will go into the profession, Ms. Danaher said. No action on the shortage was taken this year by the state legislature.
The state department of education sponsored one bill that would have created a teacher-scholarship program for areas of teacher shortage to be determined by the education department, but that bill was not signed by Gov. Harry. R. Hughes, said Judy Sachwald, the education department's legislative analyst.
Of the bills that were considered by the legislature, one proposed tuition waivers for math- and science-education students; it was passed by the Senate but not by the House. Two bills proposing scholarships--for new teachers and for retraining teachers from other fields--also failed to pass in the House.
In June, Governor Hughes appointed a study group, called the Commission To Study School Finance, to review all aspects of school finances; the group will probably consider differential pay for teachers in shortage areas, said Sheila Tolliver, the Governor's education advisor. The state higher-education board also appointed a group, called the Financial Aid Task Force, that may recommend scholarship aid for teachers entering math and science teaching and other potential shortage areas, Ms. Tolliver said.
The state has not raised graduation requirements in math, science, or computer literacy, but the Maryland High School Commission is studying that possibility.
In the meantime, one district in Maryland has initiated a program of its own to ease the shortage. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has established a program with the University of Maryland that is preparing about 30 of its teachers for recertification in math and is upgrading the math training of 50 more, said Superintendent Edward Anderson.
Under the program, the district pays tuition for the teachers and the university staff members usually come to the district to teach after school. The program costs the district about $l0,000 per semester, Mr. Anderson said. Those enrolled must earn A's or B's, "or else the district doesn't pay their bill," he added. Teachers who complete the course earn a B.A. in mathematics. This month, the State Board of Education appropriated $20,000 to expand the program to other counties, Ms. Tolliver said.
In May, many concerned groups, including the Maryland Academy of Science, the University of Maryland, the Governor's Science Advisory Council, and the state education department, held a joint conference on the science-teacher shortage. The conference, called the Conference on Potential Solutions for Maryland Science Education, will publish its recommendations this fall.