Incentives without the gimmicks

The Education Beat

Recruitment: State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has presented a new outline for gaining not just more teachers, but more good teachers and keeping them.

August 25, 1999|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

I DON'T THINK NANCY S. Grasmick, the state school superintendent, has previewed public television's episode Sept. 10 of the "Merrow Report," but she's acting as though she has.

The superintendent announced yesterday a new incentive package aimed at recruiting quality teachers and keeping them.

Most of the inducements look to the long term. Most are aimed at improving the profession rather than luring new talent with bonuses, tax breaks and other gimmicks such as those included in her first plan last winter.

That would earn applause from John Merrow. Merrow, the most knowledgeable education reporter in television, is out with a report titled "Teacher Shortage: False Alarm?" Conventional wisdom, says Merrow, "says the teacher shortage is a result of rising enrollments and teacher retirement. `False Alarm,' however, takes a closer look at our system of public education and reveals flaws that make the teacher shortage look more like a self-inflicted wound."

In short, the education establishment has helped create the shortage. How? By throwing up roadblocks to alternative routes into the profession. By allowing loopholes and loose standards so that people without so much as a college minor in science and math can teach these subjects in most states.

And by sheer incompetence. "False Alarm" introduces us to three qualified teachers in Oakland, Calif., who applied for jobs and couldn't even get an interview. The district misplaced their files, in one case for two years, while some math and science classes went without full-time teachers for months.

Resident teacher programs for years have supplied Baltimore City and Prince George's County with young, idealistic teachers. Yet only these two districts have the alternative programs in Maryland, and they have to battle each year for money and respect. The programs are often opposed by teacher educators who see them, according to Merrow, as a threat to their monopoly.

Grasmick would spend $1 million a year for three years to establish resident teacher programs statewide.

She would also spend $1.2 million to increase the number of "professional development schools." Much like university teaching hospitals, these schools allow teacher candidates and their professors to learn and teach side by side. Yet they're still a luxury in Maryland and elsewhere.

Merrow says only 30 percent of education students and 25 percent of education faculty nationwide are in professional development schools. One reason: They cost money, about $1,000 a year more for each student in an education college.

Colleges train teachers "on the cheap," Merrow says. "In fact, they add to the teacher shortage by turning out poorly trained teachers, many of whom bail out of the profession early," compounding the shortage.

Merrow's hard-hitting report offers more, but you're going to have to stay up until 11 p.m. Sept. 10 to see it on Maryland Public Television.

NEA president to give lecture on teacher shortage

Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association, will speak about the teacher shortage at a meeting tomorrow sponsored by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. The meeting is at 12: 30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select North, 2004 Greenspring Drive, Timonium.

Chase's message, not unlike Merrow's, is that it's not good enough to dangle signing bonuses and tax credits in front of aspiring teachers. Districts must look to more long-term solutions.

Nominee's vote seconded; Eisenhower nominated

One of those seconding my nomination of the late Phillip H. "Doc" Edwards, longtime City College principal, as Maryland educator of the century is Lynn Andersen Doyles, his 69-year-old granddaughter.

Doyles says she "never knew a person as dedicated to teaching and his students as he."

My nomination this week is Milton S. Eisenhower, younger brother of Dwight but without doubt a better university president. (Dwight was president of Columbia University from 1948 to 1953.) Milton Eisenhower arrived in Baltimore in 1956 to head the Johns Hopkins University. He retired in 1967, having tripled income, doubled endowment and raised faculty salaries to fourth-highest in the nation.

Nominations remain open.

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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