Originally created 07/09/98

Georgia regents approve recruiting plan



ATLANTA -- The University System of Georgia will guarantee its education graduates, recommend for early-childhood certification only those with academic minors in math and reading, and aggressively recruit future teachers -- all under a plan given final approval by the Board of Regents on Wednesday.

The plan of action caps the board's year-long study of teacher preparation, recruitment and retention.

Now, Chancellor Stephen Portch said, comes a "massive implementation effort" by the system and its schools of education.

"My hope is the University System of Georgia will be regarded as producing uniformly qualified teachers," Mr. Portch said.

"We may not be ahead of the curve in Georgia, but we're not behind it," said Regent Tom Allgood of Augusta. "We are making as much progress as anybody."

Several states are studying ways to improve the quality of teachers, but Georgia's effort is among the most extensive in the country.

Records and studies show students going into teaching generally have, on average, lower Scholastic Assessment Test scores than those going into other fields.

Once they graduate from college, many wind up teaching subjects for which they are not fully prepared. About two-thirds of physical science teachers, 49 percent of history teachers and 23 percent of mathematics teachers in Georgia do not have at least an academic minor in the subjects they are teaching.

More than a third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years in the job.

One of the holes in the state plan is that, because of massive enrollment growth in recent decades, Georgia is a major importer of teachers. Half or less of Georgia teachers have attended University System schools, meaning they would not benefit from the new program.

The plan of action includes:

A guarantee that the system will take back for further training any teacher whose job performance was found to be "failing."

An assurance that candidates for teacher certification meet certain criteria. Early-childhood majors would need minors in reading and math. Prospective middle school teachers would need minors in two of four areas: math, reading/language arts, science or social studies. High school teachers would need a major in the subject they plan to teach. Researchers have long said having educators teaching out of their field of expertise is a major problem in public schools.

An academy to train principals, and expanded access to doctorate programs in education for school administrators.

A "virtual college," via computers, for people going into teaching as a second career.

A "truth in advertising" project to have each school district list for the public the academic majors and minors of all teachers they employ.

A goal to increase by 10 percent the number of students receiving PROMISE Teacher scholarships, a recommendation to the Georgia Student Finance Commission to make more HOPE Teacher scholarships available for teachers seeking advanced degrees, and increased scholarship opportunities for prospective teachers at the individual colleges.