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A Survey of State Initiatives

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Wisconsin's education department is pushing several legislative measures to strengthen mathematics and science education, but the state's financial problems may force legislators to delay consideration of the ideas until autumn.

The bulk of the money requested would go for professional development: 400 grants of $4,000 each to enable current math and science teachers to go back to school; 200 grants of $8,000 each for teachers in other subjects who wish to obtain certification in math or science; 100 scholarships of $2,500 per year for college students who intend to teach math or science in a public school; and 50 grants of $4,000 to enable vocational-education teachers to engage in a year of concentrated study in math or science.

The plan also includes a provision for the naming of 12 "master teachers" in both math and science who would work in special math and science centers on the University of Wisconsin's campuses. The idea is both to stimulate the precollegiate teachers and to take advantage of their expertise in preparing college students for the profession. The master teachers would be on leave from their school systems for two years; the program would cost about $25,000 per teacher per year.

Two proposed grant programs are directed at school districts. Six program-development grants of about $50,000 each would be available for exemplary programs, and 200 grants of $1,000 would be available for bringing working scientists and other private-sector representatives into the schools to work with teaching staffs and students.

Wisconsin, which currently employs about 3,000 teachers in secondary math and about the same number in secondary science, does not have a serious shortage now, but a recent survey conducted for the state education department indicates that "it's simply a matter of time," said Arnold M. Chandler, director of the bureau for program development. For example, the survey found that the state's colleges produced only two certified physics teachers and 10 chemistry teachers last spring.

Forty 8th-grade students are participating this summer in a one-week program called Science World, which is being held at a rural facility owned by the state-university system. The program includes classes by four science teachers, ecological study, and daily visits by working scientists. Demand for the pilot project was so high--700 students applied--that the education department hopes to expand it to serve 600 students and 120 teachers next summer, at an estimated cost of $300,000.

Although Wisconsin has no statewide graduation requirements, Mr. Chandler noted that many districts have recently imposed stricter standards. He estimated that the average district now requires two years of math and at least two years of science. In addition, the state board of regents issued an influential report earlier this year recommending that college-bound students take at least three years in each discipline.

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