A Survey of State Initiatives

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Alabama has confronted what one state official calls a "critical" shortage of mathematics and science teachers with a law--enacted last year--that forgives loans for the college tuition of prospective teachers in return for their commitment to teach those subjects in the state's schools.

The state this year will spend $50,000 from an education trust fund for the loans, which will be forgiven at a rate of one year of tuition for each year spent teaching.

The 1982 law that created the program will continue "until the superintendent declares the shortage is over," said Richard L. McBride, the director of legislative relations and research for the state department of education. The state legislature has not made its appropriations for the coming year.

The legislature in March adopted a joint resolution, later signed by Gov. George C. Wallace, that established three committees to study how the education system could be changed to improve the state's economic standing.

The only panel studying elementary and secondary education, the Interim Commission on Elementary and Secondary Science and Mathematics, issued a set of recommendations early this month. Among the organization's proposals:

Extend the contracts of science and math teachers by one month to improve classroom and laboratory preparation for the school year, increase funding for scholarships and loans, and develop "recognition programs" for outstanding teachers and students. Such proposals would cost more than $8 million.

Buy 4,000 microcomputers for elementary and secondary schools and provide training workshops for teachers, at a cost of $10.2 million.

Re-evaluate the science and math requirements for elementary- and early-childhood education majors.

Provide $1 million extra in annual funding for science-laboratory equipment.

Require 30 minutes of science instruction daily in elementary schools, and review the science curriculum for grades K-9.

Spend $750,000 to increase the use of "manipulatives," objects used to demonstrate abstract ideas, in elementary math education.

The education department last year eased regulations for the retraining of teachers in other fields who wish to become math and science teachers. Any certified teacher who has taken six courses beyond the required minimum, which varies from college to college, in math or science may teach some classes in those subjects. Those teachers, meanwhile, must work toward full certification in the subjects.

Since 1981, only one person has taken a state certification examination to become a physics teacher, said William C. Berryman, director of the division of instructional services. About 130 people have taken the mathematics exam, 5 have taken the chemistry test, and 100 have takenthe general science and biology tests.

Mr. Berryman said the state had vacancies for 40 physics teachers, 100 math teachers, and 50 chemistry teachers. He said there was no shortage of general science or biology teachers.

The state's board of education in 1981 increased the graduation requirement in math from one to two years. The science requirement is still one year.

The department is also considering proposals from two colleges in the state to offer computer-science training programs for teachers.

C.C. Baker, the assistant superintendent for regulatory services, said the department is also studying how computers should fit into the curriculum. He said he doubts that the state would help finance the purchase of computers "within the forseeable future."

State Superintendent Wayne Teague recently completed a series of meetings with business leaders in 16 cities in the state. Mr. Teague arranged the meetings to explore ways of bringing business expertise into the schools. Mr. Teague probably will act later this year on proposals generated by the meetings, a spokesman said.

Vol. 02, Issue 39

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