A Survey of State Initiatives

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Preliminary results of a study of the supply of and demand for mathematics and science teachers in New Jersey indicate that the state has no shortage of math teachers for 1983-84 and only a slight shortage of science teachers.

An interim report released in May by a 15-member advisory council set up last fall by the state commissioners of education and higher education indicates that, under existing conditions, the state will meet its need in mathematics with 4,662 teachers to fill 4,538 slots, and that it will be short about 52 science teachers. There are 3,833 science teachers to fill 3,885 teaching positions, according to the study.

The "least affluent" districts in the state--those in rural areas and inner cities--have more serious staffing problems in math and science than the wealthier suburban districts, according to the study. It noted that increasing numbers of math and science teachers are leaving the profession, while the number of uncertified math and science teachers is increasing.

The interim report called for the establishment of summer institutes for scientists and mathematicians who want to teach, a statewide job bank, and inservice curriculum workshops for teachers conducted by experts from industry.

A Senate bill now in the education committee would require the state to provide loans to any qualified college students majoring in math or science at "approved" state colleges or universities. The bill would also set up a loan-forgiveness program for college students who agree to teach in New Jersey public schools for five years.

In addition, it would create a loan and loan-forgiveness program for practicing teachers in other fields who plan to teach math and science in the state.

The legislature allocated $150,000 to the state department of higher education to sponsor two-week summer institutes for teachers in math and science. The department awarded contracts to seven education schools to purchase materials, pay instructors, and provide stipends of $150 per week for participating teachers, according to Joel Bloom, acting assistant commissioner for research, planning, and evaluation for the state department of education.

The department of education has identified 1,000 teachers interested in upgrading their skills and another 1,000 teachers in other areas who wish to be recertified as math or science teachers. The legislature allocated an additional $300,000 to the department of higher education to fund teacher-recertification programs in math and science next fall.

This summer, the state will operate a series of "Governor's schools'' on college campuses. The schools are essentially summer institutes for gifted students. Courses offered are not solely in math and science, but these areas have been targeted as "areas of high need."

Last July, Gov. Thomas H. Kean established a committee on scientific and technological needs in industry, higher education, elementary and secondary education, and other areas. The committee will report in September, and its recommendations are expected to "overlap" somewhat with those made by the committee studying teacher supply and demand in math and science.

The Governor announced this month that he would support paying higher salaries to attract and keep math and science teachers.

The state raised its high-school graduation standards two years ago, with new requirements to be put into effect in 1984-85. The state will require two years of study in math and one year in science. Currently, minimum standards require a year of math and no science, according to Mr. Bloom.

The state's grading standards on mandated competency examinations in math and in reading also will be raised in 1984-85. The state is upgrading its requirements from "minimum basic skills" to "basic skills'' and will require higher cut-off scores for graduation.

School districts select and purchase their own computers and software. The mechanism for inservice computer training will be changed this year because funding cutbacks have caused the state to restructure its regional training system.

Vol. 02, Issue 39

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