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A Survey of State Initiatives

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In Michigan, the immediate problem is not a shortage of teachers, according to state officials, but a high proportion of teachers with inadequate preparation in mathematics and science. Because of sharp declines in enrollment and seniority rules, many teachers have been shifted into fields in which their academic training is minimal or dated.

"These are fully certified people, and some of them are very good teachers," noted Nancy C. Mincemoyer, science specialist for the Michigan department of education, "but in terms of coursework and academic background, they really aren't qualified. Even if we had new science teachers right now, we wouldn't have jobs for them."

Accordingly, the state is more concerned now with improving the skills of current teachers than with increasing the supply of new ones--although a shortage is expected within five years.

The legislature is considering measures that would increase the number of state specialists in technology, math, and science; increase funds for programs for the gifted and talented; and increase state subsidies for inservice training, which districts would be free to spend according to local needs.

A state task force on math and science is examining other possibilities, including summer institutes for teachers, regional inservice centers based on university campuses, and more concentrated use of existing teacher centers and intermediate-school-district specialists. The committee is scheduled to make its report in mid-1984.

A separate committee on educational technology is expected to be appointed this summer.

Although local districts in Michigan set their own graduation requirements, the state has drafted an advisory set of standards that will be field-tested in several districts next year. The proposed standards call for four semesters of high-school math and four semesters of science; the current average is slightly over three semesters, state officials estimated, and in some districts as low as two.

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