A Survey of State Initiatives
Virginia's Gov. Charles S. Robb has signed two major bills that will promote mathematics and science education in the state and increase the ability of school districts to purchase classroom computers.
One bill authorizes the state board of education to charge a certification fee for new teachers in the state and to use the proceeds to retrain teachers in math, according to William Helton, administrative director of personnel. The $25-certification fee, he said, will yield an estimated $75,000 this year to support the math institute for teachers, which the department intends to expand to include other subject areas with teacher shortages.
In a survey conducted during the 1981-82 school year, the department found that more than 4 percent of the state's math teachers, 5 percent of the chemistry teachers, about 41 percent of the earth-science teachers, 10 percent of the general-science teachers, 17 percent of the physics teachers, and about 11 percent of the industrial-arts teachers in the state were not certified to teach in those subject areas. There are about 64,500 teachers statewide.
In its 1984-86 budget, the department also has proposed a loan-forgiveness program offering up to $1,000 for teacher candidates in math and science. Mr. Helton said the General Assembly will be considering that proposal in January.
Mr. Helton said department officials anticipate that the state board will act soon to raise high-school graduation requirements from 18 to 20 credits, including an additional year of both math and science. Under another proposal being considered by the board, college-bound students would be required to have three years each in math and science and would receive a college-preparatory diploma.
In March, the legislature approved a $280,000 appropriation to assist the 140 school districts in the state to purchase computer equipment. The matching grant is in addition to a tax-incentive bill signed earlier this year by Governor Robb to encourage businesses to donate computer equipment to the schools.
The education department is participating in a federally funded project called State Leadership Assistance for Technology in Education to evaluate computer software and establish staff development programs for local districts.
The Science and Technology Task Force, which was appointed by Governor Robb earlier this year, recently completed an examination of the state's economy. It was expected before the end of July to announce its recommendations on, among other things, the state's educational system and the role it should have in attracting and supporting "future-oriented industries" that locate in Virginia, according to Joseph Exline, a science consultant for the department of education.
The education committee of that task force focused on ways of improving math and science education in the state, according to Mr. Exline.