A Survey of State Initiatives
In Utah, the state legislature is moving ahead on the mathematics and science education problem with two interim study commissions and plans for inservice training for math and science teachers.
The study commissions were established in response to a bill introduced in the last session calling for various incentives for improving the teaching profession as a whole, including math and science teaching. The bill, which was defeated, would have set up stipends for teachers in areas that specific districts saw as their "critical areas," according to James Wilson, a spokesman for the legislature.
"The legislature didn't think it was the best way to solve the math and science problem," Mr. Wilson said.
The study commissions will review two pilot programs that are underway in the state.
A productivity study under way in two districts is testing the effect of a longer school day and increased pay for teachers based on student performance. The experiment will provide a $1,300 bonus for teachers who, at the end of the semester, have achieved certain test scores in their classroom. "The response from teachers, students, and administrators is super," Mr. Wilson said. "Teachers can concentrate on their work more and be more enthusiastic because they are getting more pay and don't have the time or the need to worry about a second job."
Rural teachers may soon be getting help from a telecommunications network, an idea legislators are now studying. The network would broadcast one math or science teacher's lesson to everyone in viewing range. The use of telecommunications is "especially important to Utah, because of the large land area and low population density in some rural areas," according to Mr. Wilson. "The lecturer would not necessarily be a 'master' teacher, but someone who is well-known and experienced."
The state does not have figures to document a shortage of math and science teachers, but authorities believe there is one. "The problem in Utah is that we have trouble recruiting and retaining secondary-education teachers in science and math, because there are no incentives," Mr. Wilson said.
In June, Gov. Scott M. Matheson appointed a committee to study math and science education in the state. According to a spokesman, the committee includes, among others, the commissioner of higher education, a member of the board of regents, the state superintendent of public instruction, the chairman of the state board of education, and two members of the state legislature.
The committee will develop a legislative package by the next session that contains plans for avoiding a major deficiency--long-term shortages of qualified teachers--in the state's education system. That deficiency was outlined in the Governor's "Phase I" and "Phase II" studies of public education in Utah, according to Anna Marie Dunlop, an aide to the Governor. Mr. Matheson's studies were bolstered by a related analysis developed by the former president of the University of Utah, David P. Gardner.
To provide immediate help for districts with teacher shortages, the education department is sponsoring a one-week "Math Camp" for the first time this summer that provides 30 hours of preparation to teachers who have little or no college-level math. The teachers were nominated by their superintendents because they will be teaching math, often for the first time, this fall.
In Utah, teachers are not certified by subject area. Once they receive secondary-level certification, they can be placed wherever they are needed.
"The camp is just a starting point," said the state office of education math specialist, Donald D. Clark, who is running the camp. "It is a superficial program to get them started, increase their confidence, and make them receptive to more training."
The math camp is administered by the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics and funded with $11,000 from the state. Each participant in the camp receives $20 per day and is given the opportunity to earn five hours of college credit at the reduced rate of $80 per credit hour. Mr. Clark said the state office of education also runs 30-hour inservice workshops on computers, algebra, geometry, and elementary math.
The University of Utah has adopted a program to award $1,500 scholarships to students who are pursuing secondary-level certification in math, science, or a foreign language, and who plan to teach in Utah.
George Brown, computer specialist for the state education department, said the state has adopted a requirement that all students who graduate from state high schools after June 1984 must be "computer literate."
Mr. Brown also said that, as of June 1984, any teacher graduating from a state institution must be certified as computer literate in order to gain state certification. The state's definition of computer literacy should be ready next fall, Mr. Brown said.
The last session of the legislature established the Utah Public Education Foundation, which allows businesses that contribute computer resources to schools to earn a tax credit, he said.
New college admissions standards go into effect in 1987 that require students to have two years each of math and science.