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Whelan Bill To Address Shortage In Math And Science Teachers Advances

Bill Would Create Alternative Endorsement Route to Fill Backlog

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would create an alternative method of endorsing teachers in specific subject areas in order to address a shortage in those subject areas was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee today.

“If our kids are going to compete in a national or international marketplace, they have to have the fundamentals of education,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “However, New Jersey is currently in the midst of a severe and worsening teacher shortage, particularly in the areas of science and math. In order to preserve the promise of a thorough and efficient education for all New Jersey students, we have to implement creative programs which increase the number of available math and science teachers without giving an inch on the need for quality teachers.”

The bill, S-1718, would establish, on a permanent basis, a number of the provisions of an 18-month pilot program developed in the Department of Education to address the State’s shortage of mathematics and science teachers. The bill would direct the Commissioner of Education to establish a program to issue subject area endorsements in math and the sciences – or any other subject area identified by the U.S. Department of Education as facing a shortage – to certified teaching staff members authorized to work in New Jersey public schools who do not currently hold such endorsements. Under the program, the State Board of Examiners would issue subject area endorsements to teaching staff members who pass the appropriate State test of subject matter knowledge and meet any other criteria as set by the Commissioner of Education through regulation.

Senator Whelan, who teaches in Atlantic City, noted that the current shortage of science and math teachers at the high school level is especially severe in urban communities. He said that the 18-month pilot program – which was created as a result of S-2707, a bill advanced during the 2008-2009 Legislative Session – has resulted in 80 new Physics teachers and 25 new Chemistry teachers in New Jersey, more than four times the number produced by all universities in New Jersey during that same time period. These new science teachers taught about 10,000 New Jersey students who may not have been able to study physics or chemistry without the pilot program.

“This program, in its pilot phase, has been an incredible success in expanding the availability of new math and science teachers, and meeting the growing demand as more and more experienced teachers retire,” said Senator Whelan. “If a qualified teacher demonstrates sufficient subject knowledge and a desire to teach, I don’t see any reason why the State shouldn’t give its full blessing. This program would make it easier for existing teachers to fill in the gaps whenever quality teachers are needed.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, before going to the full Senate for review.

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