A Survey of State Initiatives

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In Arkansas, a study conducted by Truett Goatcher, coordinator of school statistics and physical services for the state education department, showed that last September the state had a shortage of 31 physics teachers and that no new teachers were coming out of the education schools or re-entering the profession.

In chemistry, there was a shortage of 82 teachers, with only two new teachers arriving from the state's education schools, and one teacher re-entering the profession.

In April, legislators approved a small-scale program that will allocate existing state scholarship money ($15,000 this year) to provide loans of up to 50 percent of the cost of tuition, room, board, and books to students studying to be mathematics and science teachers. The state will forgive one-fifth of the loan for every year a student teaches in the state.

This spring, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill that will provide $1 million to the department of education to study the effectiveness of using microcomputers in elementary schools to improve basic skills.

The money, along with an additional $250,000 provided by a group of businessmen, will be used to purchase equipment, select courseware, train teachers, and devise tests to begin a pilot program this fall in 12 to 20 schools throughout the state, according to Charles D. Watson, administrator of instructional computing for the state department of education. The pilot program will begin with students in grades 4 through 6.

The state is currently studying accreditation standards and graduation requirements; it is "very likely" that the new commission on educational standards--a 15-member committee created by the legislature this year to update statewide standards enacted in 1969--will request that the state mandate study in math and science and introduce a one-semester requirement in computer literacy, according to Mr. Watson. Currently, the state requires only that students complete 16 units of study: 4 in English, 1 in history, 1 in physical education/health, with no specific recommendation for study in math and science.

The state commission on standards, which is chaired by Hillary Clinton, wife of Gov. Bill Clinton, is due to make recommendations on Jan. 1.

A new magnet school for math and science will open this fall at Mann Junior High School in Little Rock, Mr. Watson said.

A state task force on computer literacy last year developed definitions of the computer-related skills students ought to master. The group's study was intended to "identify what computer literacy is" and to help map out "goals for courses," according to Mr. Watson. The recommendations were distributed to school districts, colleges and universities, and professional groups such as the state's association of math teachers.

The department of education has established a microcomputer laboratory that is used to demonstrate software to teachers and administrators. Lab officials keep a file of programs developed by teachers and provide training on seven different microcomputer systems. Teachers and school administrators from throughout the state use the laboratory by appointment.

In addition, the Arkansas School-Busness Association has completed a survey of courseware to determine what is being used throughout the state.

The curriculum council at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro has approved a plan to introduce a computer-literacy requirement for graduation from its teacher- training program, according to Mr. Watson. A similar requirement is being considered at several other teacher-training institutions in the state.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville sponsors a pre-college math and science summer program for about 60 students.

Vol. 02, Issue 39

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