A Survey of State Initiatives
Pennsylvania is "in the beginning of a shortage" of teachers in physics, chemistry, and earth and space science, according to the state department of education.
The department will soon complete a statewide assessment of the need for teachers that will document the exact size of the shortage.
In 1981-82, the state issued 174 emergency certificates for mathematics and science teachers in the public schools. A state department of education survey conducted that year found that in the fields of math and science 458 new teachers were certified, while 654 teachers already working left their jobs.
In 1981-82, only six new physics teachers graduated from the state's teacher-education programs, according to officials.
The state legislature is pondering what to do to solve the problems in math and science education. Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh made several provisions for math and science education in the budget package he sent to the legislature.
The $8-billion package, which was returned by the legislature earlier this month, is underfunded by about $451 million, and observers say that the status of the new math and science initiatives are still uncertain. The Governor must decide whether to make line-item vetos or veto the entire package. The Senate passed a bill, to offset the deficit, by raising personal income taxes, imposing an additional cigarette tax, and making early tax collections, but the House has yet to agree upon these actions.
Included among the Governor's "advanced-technology initiatives" was $300,000 for a program that would set aside $100,000 in forgivable loans to students who teach math and science in Pennsylvania schools (one-half the cost of the loan per year would be cancelled for every year taught in the schools); $150,000 to retrain and upgrade the skills of math and science teachers already in the profession; and $50,000 to encourage school districts to develop partnerships with business and industry to bring their employees into the schools to teach.
(A state law permits any person knowledgeable in his or her field to teach for up to 300 hours as long as there is supervision by a certified teacher.)
The Governor has also proposed spending $10 million over a three-year period to upgrade equipment in the state's 86 vocational and technical schools and in the state's community colleges.
Last year, Pennsylvania established a special school for academically gifted students in math and science. The Pennsylvania School for the Sciences, which was located previously at Carnegie Mellon University, graduated 50 students in its first commencement late last summer.
The state board of education is likely to approve new high-school graduation standards this summer. A proposal before the board would raise minimum requirements from 17 credits to 21; introduce one-half year of required study in computer science; and raise the amount of study required in both math and science to three years from one year in each field.
Although the state board has the authority to set graduation standards, House approval of such a recommendation is being sought as a way of showing the public that all agencies are "acting in unison" and are in agreement, according to officials.
The state board is working to complete this summer a review of state curriculum regulations for all grades. The process of curriculum review, which recently has provoked sharp disagreement among parents, teachers, and administrators, was begun "about 10 years ago" and will be concluded in a final report that will specify not only "what a student should know" in all fields but also what specific courses or material should be studied.
In the past year, the state department of education provided $2.1 million to school districts and local and regional education agencies to introduce new technologies into their programs. Some $1.31 million was provided for the purchase of computer hardware and software and an additional $800,000 was provided for technology for special-education programs.
School districts and education agencies in their technology-grant proposals last year asked for more than $8 million in aid, according to officials, who said that for the most part, those districts and education groups that did not receive help from the state found funding from private sources.
There are about 7,500 microcomputers in Pennsylvania schools, according to preliminary results of a new study by the department of education.
The state has a full-time instructor who trains teachers to run inservice programs on the uses of microcomputers. The trainer this year developed a series of programs in computer use for school librarians.