Originally created 07/10/02

Teacher plan works



Last year it was Teach for Georgia. This year it's the Teacher Alternative Preparation Program. Whatever it's called, it seems to be working.

This is the program that fast-tracks certification as a way of alleviating the teacher shortage and getting content-knowledgeable science and math professionals into Georgia classrooms.

It is part of Gov. Roy Barnes' 2001 education reform bill. The governor and other state leaders were understandably troubled that half of high school science and math teachers hadn't even minored, much less majored, in the subject they taught. No wonder students were scoring poorly in those courses. They were being taught by teachers who didn't know much more than they did.

The Teacher Alternative Preparation Program (TAPP) was designed to persuade successful middle-aged professionals - engineers, mathematicians, scientists, etc. - who were ready for a career change to bring their expertise into the classroom.

The problem was the education establishment made them jump through hoops for two years before giving them credentials. They didn't want to wait that long and the schools, which needed the teachers right away, couldn't afford to wait.

To hasten the process, Gov. Barnes prodded the state agency that certifies teachers into fast-tracking. He got teaching academies in Augusta and other major cities across the state to offer a free crash program last summer to get the professionals teaching the following fall.

Not everybody was pleased. A spokesman for a national teachers panel said teachers need to know a lot more than just subject-content to be effective. They must learn how to teach and control their students as well as other management skills, including dealing with some complex legal issues.

True enough, and that's why after the crash course the new teachers are put in a mentoring program for two years, after which they're required to obtain permanent certification. In the meantime, they and their students benefit from on-the-job training.

TAPP was so successful last year that it's being rerun this summer. The crash course at Augusta State University starts Thursday. Of the 50 new teachers placed in local classrooms last fall, 45 are still with the program, an encouraging statistic.

Surely having highly educated, skilled professionals teaching students the tough courses is a big improvement over plugging the teacher shortage with long-term substitutes, many of whom don't have college degrees.