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A Survey of State Initiatives

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The "Better Schools" proposals of Gov. Lamar Alexander are still the primary education issue in Tennessee. The legislature is expected to reconsider next year the wide-ranging package that includes a computer-literacy requirement, new basic-skills programs for students and a controversial merit-pay plan for teachers.

Students who enter the 9th grade this fall will be required to earn one more credit in both mathematics and science before graduating from high school. The requirement is now one year of study in both subjects. The legislature has not appropriated any extra funds for the program.

The state will spend almost $100,000 to conduct computer-training sessions for education-department officials, who will train teachers in districts.

As part of its own "Basic Skills First" program, the department will work with 900 of the state's 1,100 elementary schools to detail learning objectives and to develop a testing plan for math, arts, and language. The program, which will involve students from the 1st to 8th grades, will cost $300,000.

Between 1977 and 1981, 684 teachers were certified to teach mathematics in Tennessee, but in 1982 only 378 of them were doing so, a study by the department of education found. A department official said a similar problem exists in the area of science education.

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