Two back-to-school television programs to be aired by the Public Broadcasting Service this month are likely to provoke discussion in some communities about their schools.
The first, "Teacher Shortage: False Alarm?," an installment of the Merrow Report series scheduled for Sept. 10, casts a skeptical eye on the apparent staffing crisis in the nation's public schools. The report challenges the conventional wisdom that rising student enrollment and teacher retirements are leading to a shortage of teachers.
Plenty of new teachers are coming out of the nation's universities, John Merrow, the producer and reporter, says.
Instead, he argues that the real problems are school mismanagement and high attrition in teaching jobs.
The program highlights the public schools in Oakland, Calif., where Mr. Merrow contends qualified teachers had trouble applying for jobs because of administrative snags. It also examines out-of-field teaching at a Georgia high school, where teachers lead classes in subjects they have never studied.
A production of Learning Matters Inc., a nonprofit corporation, the program will air at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. Check local listings.
"Seeking Solutions," a 2-hour program airing later in the month, will look at hate-motivated crimes, including violence among teenagers in California; a gang war in Washington; and the burning of African-American churches in South Carolina.
While exploring the causes of those incidents, producer and reporter Hedrick Smith focuses on the constructive responses to them by the local communities.
One segment features Joe Moros, a high school teacher in San Clemente, Calif., who created an innovative course on tolerance.
Some of the people presented in the documentary segments also participate in "town meetings" moderated by Mr. Smith.
"Seeking Solutions," produced by South Carolina Educational Television and Hedrick Smith Productions Inc., will air on PBS stations nationally on Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
An interactive two-hour symposium related to the program will be broadcast live on the Web on Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. on the East Coast. (See www.pbs.org/seekingsolutions.) To participate, users must download RealPlayer software and have access to the Internet through a 28.8 Kbs modem or a faster connection.
—Andrew Trotter [email protected]
Vol. 19, Issue 1, Page 10