A Survey of State Initiatives

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Although the exact figures are not yet available, the teacher training and licensing department of the Indiana state department of public instruction expects shortages in physics, chemistry, all levels of secondary- and junior-high mathematics, and junior-high science, according to Susan Zimmerman, math consultant for the state department of public instruction.

The teacher shortage may become more severe at the high-school level, said Ms. Zimmerman, as a result of the Indiana state board of education's move in April to raise high-school graduation requirements; the change upgraded the requirements in both math and science from one year to two for all students.

In response, Gov. Robert D. Orr has signed three bills designed to reduce teacher shortages in math and science and to attract new students to teaching, including:

A tax-credit incentive to employers who hire science and math teachers in the summer. The tax credit will be awarded to an employer who hires a teacher in a position relevant to a shortage field in which the teacher is certified.

The law provides funds for a maximum $2,500 tax credit to the employer--or 50 percent of the amount of compensation paid to the teacher, whichever is less. The program has a funding limit of $500,000 for 1983.

A "loan-replacement assistance fund" to help repay the college loans of students who become math and science teachers in the state or who teach in other designated shortage fields. This program is funded at $50,000 a year for the next two years.

A "teacher shortage financial assistance fund" for loans to teachers certified in "non-shortage" areas who wish to become recertified. The recertification program is funded at $150,000 per year for the next two years.

The Indiana State Student Assistance Commission will administer the loan and retraining programs, which went into effect this month.

To be eligible for the loan replacement assistance fund, a teacher must be certified to teach math or science; be teaching in a public school at least half time in math or science at the time of application; and have a loan debt to the Indiana Guaranteed Student Loan program or the state's plus loan program (Parental Loan for Undergraduate Students). No federal loans qualify for replacement.

The state will pay up to half of the total principal and interest owed, or $2,000 per year, whichever is less, for a maximum of five consecutive years in which the participant works toward recertification.

To be eligible for the retraining program, an applicant must be certified in a discipline other than math or science. Priority will be given to laid-off' teachers and those who have accrued at least six credits in math or science since they last earned a degree.

The state will pay up to $1,000 per year for no more than two years. (The program will start this year with grants, but may use interest-free loans later.) The teacher is required to become certified in the shortage discipline within three years of receiving the grant and to teach for at least three of the next five years in an Indiana public school. Otherwise, the loan must be repaid to the state with 10-percent interest.

In March, the Sunset Evaluation Committee--a standing joint committee of the state legislature that audits the performance of state agencies--released a study of the education department that suggested several ways to attract and retrain math and science teachers. Loan and loan-forgiveness programs for prospective teachers, retraining programs, financial incentives, and licensing requirements were all reviewed in the study, which is likely to be the basis for discussion in the legislature's next session.

The committee also concluded that Indiana's procedure for projecting long-term supply-and-demand figures for teachers is inadequate--mainly because the data are too old.

Indiana's teacher shortage may be more "qualitative" than quantitative. "When young teachers are removed by a reduction in force, less qualified, but more tenured, teachers fill in for them," a spokesman noted.

At Indiana State University, the education department also formed a committee this spring to investigate the possibility of retraining teachers and recruiting new students in shortage areas. The committee, composed of faculty members in math, science, and education, devised a plan to award credits for work experience to people from business and industry who want to become teachers in math and science, said Dr. Glen Brown, head of the committee.

The Governor's select advisory commission for primary and secondary education--a 15-member commission of citizens and legislators set in April 1982 to review all facets of Indiana's public-school system, will report next November on teacher shortages in math and science and ways to improve math and science teaching in general. Its report is expected to look at ways to encourage and reward quality teachers through merit-pay plans, revised tenure laws, increased certification requirements, and improved evaluation procedures.

Last year, the commission examined computer education; its recommendations were the basis for the establishment of the Indiana Consortium for Computer and Hi-Tech Education, a group that begins its work this month.

With a $5-million appropriation, the group is supposed to establish regional clearinghouses for computer-instruction information; coordinate the training of teachers in computer instruction; and set up grants and loans for districts that want to buy computers.

The Indiana legislature has also passed several bills on the subject of computer education. One bill gives a tax credit to corporations that donate computers to schools. The credit can be no more than $25,000 or 25 percent of the cost to the company of the new equipment.

Indiana's Commission on General Education, which oversees the education-improvement process in the state, recently added computer education to the list of subject areas in which districts must demonstrate progress. This means that every district is now required to offer "computer literacy" classes; but the commission is giving districts latitude in defining computer literacy, according to Phyllis Land, director of federal resources and school improvement for the Indiana department of public instruction.

Vol. 02, Issue 39

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