Program To Place German Teachers in Private Schools
Fifteen "highly qualified" mathematics and science teachers from West Germany may land jobs next fall teaching in American independent schools as the result of a pilot project designed to recruit German teachers to ease shortages in this country.
Independent Education Services of Princeton, N.J., a nonprofit recruitment and placement service for the nation's independent schools, is circulating the resumes of the West Germans to see whether their credentials appeal to schools that, like their public counterparts, are struggling to find enough trained instructors.
The idea has merit, those who support the project say. They point out that while public- and private-school administrators in the United States scramble to find qualified math and science teachers, their West German counterparts are faced with the opposite situation: too many teachers for the jobs available. According to West German estimates, the country has a surplus of 40,000 teachers.
About a dozen schools have expressed an interest in the project, said William W. Baeckler, executive director of Independent Education Services. Mr. Baeckler added that he expects to hear from more schools as they begin to assess their needs for the next school year.
Independent schools were chosen as the project's target schools because they are not bound by certification requirements that public schools must observe.
The project is the brainchild of Gerda Lederer, a high-school mathematics teacher in Scarsdale, N.Y., who in 1973-74 taught in West Germany when that country was experiencing a teacher shortage. With a $10,000 grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation arranged through Teachers College, Columbia University, Ms. Lederer traveled to Germany early this year and recruited the 15 prospective teachers, who have superior qualifications, she said.
"We don't have teacher candidates like these in this country, at least none who are available," said Bruce R. Vogeli, chairman of the department of mathematics and science education at Teachers College and adviser to the project.
The preparation that German math and science teachers receive is comparable to a master's degree program in this country, Mr. Vogeli said. They take a four-year degree program in two major fields of study and one minor field. They then go through a fifth year of educational studies and a sixth-year internship that is similar to student-teaching in this country, Mr. Vogeli said.
According to Ms. Lederer, the German teachers would work in this country for one or two years and would be paid a salary equal to that of other teachers in the schools in which they are placed. But while they would fill a temporary gap, "there is also a cultural-exchange aspect to the project that is beneficial to both countries," she said.
The National Association of Independent Schools, although not currently involved in the project, "approves of the idea and is waiting to see the outcome of the pilot," said Anne E. Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the association.
Ms. Rosenfeld said that independent schools are "having to look a little harder" for qualified math and science teachers than they have in the past, but that there currently is not a shortage of such teachers. She added that the association is "concerned" that a shortage could be around the corner.
"We wouldn't be interested in seeking teachers from abroad if we thought there were going to be enough teachers right here in our own country," Ms. Rosenfeld said.
Mr. Baeckler at ies said, however, that the demand for math and science teachers in independent schools far exceeds the supply of available, qualified teachers. Currently, ies reports 311 vacancies for math teachers in independent schools, but only 111 qualified candidates for those jobs; the service also reports 256 vacancies for science teachers and only 156 candidates.
College graduates in science, math, and computer fields gravitate toward business and industry rather than teaching mainly because of money, Mr. Baeckler said. "I keep hearing the comment, 'I wanted to teach, but the highest offer I got from a school was $16,000 and the lowest offer I got from industry was $24,000,"' he said.
Because of a serious shortage of math teachers in Georgia--59 percent of the mathematics teachers in the state's public schools are not certified to teach the subject--state officials traveled to West Germany last year and recruited eight math teachers for this school year.
"They're doing a super job," said Eloise T. Barron, mathematics coordinator for the state department of education. "They certainly know their mathematics. There is no doubt about that."
The teachers had some difficulty adjusting to the diversity of Georgia's student population. "They are used to a much more homogeneous group of students in Germany," Ms. Barron said.
State officials have not yet decided whether they will seek out more German teachers next year. The program is currently being evaluated, said Ms. Barron, who added that at least five of the German teachers expressed an interest in staying. The teachers were issued temporary certificates, which enabled them to teach in the state's public schools for one year.
Three of the German teachers were among 90 teachers who took the state's teacher-certification test last fall. The three Germans scored 2nd-, 4th-, and 6th-highest on the test, Ms. Barron said. The remaining five teachers took the test earlier this year, and their scores are not available yet, she added.