Plan aims to attract teachers

Grasmick package includes `institute,' more recruiting

`Must be addressed'

Major need projected with retirements, increased enrollment

July 28, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Trying to head off Maryland's impending teacher shortage, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick proposed yesterday a package of initiatives to attract more teachers.

Grasmick's plan includes creating a "teacher institute" to showcase the state's best teachers for high school and college students -- as well as expanding such programs as Teach for America, which help college graduates with liberal arts degrees become certified while teaching.

As part of the proposal, Grasmick also told the state school board that Maryland has won a three-year, $5.5 million federal grant to improve teacher certification practices and teacher preparation programs.

The effort to attract more teachers occurs as Maryland faces the prospect of an overwhelming teacher shortage in the next few years.

Maryland public schools hired about 5,600 teachers last year, and officials project 11,000 new teachers a year will be needed by September 2001. The growing demand stems from increasing student enrollment, a glut of anticipated retirements and efforts to reduce class sizes for beginning reading classes.

The state's colleges and universities will graduate 2,500 new teachers a year, and that number is not expected to increase -- forcing school systems and the state to become creative.

"We consider this to be a huge area that must be addressed," Grasmick said. "What we have done so far are just baby steps."

In the spring, the General Assembly approved legislation endorsed by Grasmick to help curb the teacher shortage, including a Maryland HOPE scholarship program to provide grants to some students who plan to go into teaching and state-funded bonuses to some new teachers. Some of the bonus programs began this year.

Local school systems also have taken steps to attract teachers, including job fairs, out-of-state recruiting and bonuses for teachers certified in hard-to-find areas. In Baltimore, the Abell Foundation has joined with a developer to provide low-cost housing for beginning city teachers.

Other Grasmick proposals to attract teachers include:

Working with educators in other states in the region to recruit teachers. Pennsylvania colleges produce more teachers than the state hires.

Expanding mentoring programs for new teachers, reducing the number of frustrated first- and second-year teachers who leave education.

Beginning a pilot program in which teachers would have different classifications, and possibly pay, such as master teacher, mentor teacher and intern teacher. "This would give teachers some kind of a higher step to work for, instead of just leaving the classroom and becoming an administrator," Grasmick said.

With the federal grant, state educators will try to improve teacher education programs and simplify teacher licensing and certification procedures. "We don't want that to be an inhibition to teachers," Grasmick said.

At next month's meeting, Grasmick expects to recommend which subject areas should be declared "critical shortages" -- enabling systems to hire retired teachers for those positions.

Also during yesterday's meeting, a task force delivered its final report on how to fix Maryland's middle schools. The 23 recommendations -- due to be voted on by the board this fall -- call for middle schools to give tougher academic challenges and to teach reading.

It also recommends that teachers be trained in the subject areas they teach, and in dealing with early adolescents.

The report was developed over the past year by a task force appointed by Grasmick with the goal of reversing the trend of declining eighth-grade test scores. Many recommendations were announced in April, when a first draft was presented to the board.

The recommendations respond to the criticism of middle schools that academics have been pushed aside in favor of tending to adolescents' needs -- a criticism that dates to the 1970s, when junior high schools were phased out for middle schools.

"It really is the weak link in American education," said Douglas MacIver, co-chairman of the task force and associate director at the Johns Hopkins University's Center for the Social Organization of Schools.

The final report -- which will be distributed to school boards, principals and others -- added recommendations to April's draft, including career and college counseling for middle-school pupils, mentoring for beginning teachers and improved efforts to train and keep principals.

In other business, the board:

Approved a school reform plan for Baltimore's Alexander Hamilton Elementary School that had been rejected by state education officials this summer. The board has approved plans for all 83 low-performing city schools threatened with state takeover.

Announced plans for Maryland's first-ever statewide student summit on school safety Nov. 1.

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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