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Teacher Preparation Project Focuses on New Teachers in Public Schools

Atlanta — December 10, 1997

What happens to teachers once they graduate from college and begin their teaching careers was the subject of a presentation to the Board of Regents Strategic Planning Committee today, when the board convened for its monthly meeting.

This marked the third installment of an intensive review of the University System’s role in educating the state’s teachers, a Board of Regents’ initiative that is underway during the current academic year. At its last two meetings, the board has heard presentations dealing with the demographics of Georgia’s teachers, the ways teachers obtain their state teaching license, and how the state’s public colleges prepare teachers for certification.

Dr. James Muyskens, senior vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University System of Georgia, introduced the presentation, which included comments from Dr. Richard Ingersoll, a sociology professor at the University of Georgia; Dr. Tom Hall, director of Technology and Support Services for the Professional Standards Commission (the body that certifies Georgia teachers); and Dr. James Jenkins, superintendent of the White County School System.

Muyskens said that teacher education does not end when new teachers begin teaching. “Professional development for teachers must be continuous. For that reason, it is important to understand the environment in which teachers operate. That allows us to properly assess those factors that contribute to an individual’s success as a teacher, as well as those factors that cause teachers to leave the profession,” Muyskens said. “Our end goal is to ensure the proper environment in terms of the classroom, support, and professional development that enables teachers to be effective as long-term contributors to our children’s education.”

A key factor affecting teachers – both nationally and in Georgia – is the high percentage of teachers who provide instruction in subjects for which they have little background. Information compiled by the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), shows that for all major subject areas (English, math, science, social studies, and history), a significant percentage of instruction in public high schools (grades 9-12) is the responsibility of teachers who do not hold either a major or minor degree in that field. For example: nationally, 55 percent of the teachers in physical science do not hold a degree in that subject. The percentage in Georgia is 66 percent.

SAAS is one of the largest and most comprehensive data sources available nationwide on the staffing, occupational and organizational characteristics of schools in the U.S.

“Do you really want your daughter being taught trigonometry by a teacher with no training in this subject?” Ingersoll asked, in presenting the data. But he cautioned that it would be incorrect to conclude that the solution is more training in specific subject areas. “The problem is a mismatch between what students study in college and then what they are asked to teach in school,” he noted.

Teachers leave the teaching profession for a variety of reasons, but the SASS data show that the majority in Georgia who abandon teaching (32 percent versus the national average of 18 percent) do so out of dissatisfaction. “Other career choices” were given as the reason for leaving by 27 percent in Georgia, compared with 24 percent nationally. Retirement accounts for 8 percent of those Georgia teachers leaving the profession.

The type of programs available to new teachers to help them make the transition from college to teaching are another factor in teacher retention. Schools typically offer one or more programs in the areas of new teacher orientation, mentoring to provide a support system for new teachers, and staff development for all personnel.

The attrition rate for new teachers in Georgia after one year is 16 percent (for the period 1991-92), and after three years is 26 percent (for the period 1991-1994). The five year attrition rate for all new teachers in Georgia is 34 percent (for the period 1991-1996), according to Hall. The rate is even higher during this same period for secondary teachers, at 41 percent. But once a teacher makes it past the five year mark, the attrition rate drops dramatically, to around 6 percent for all teachers.

As the board moves forward to develop guidelines and recommendations on teacher preparation in the University System, they will have the input of two master teachers who were introduced at the meeting. Sheila Jones, a mathematics teacher at Douglas County High School, and Kay Cribbs, a mathematics teacher at Edwards Middle School in Rockdale County, are working at the Board of Regents’ central office throughout the current academic year to provide guidance for the teacher preparation and related initiatives. Both hold the title Master Teachers in Residence and represent the first time that such K-12 teachers have worked in such a capacity informing Board of Regents’ policy.

In addition to teaching math, Jones is chair of the mathematics department and a teacher support specialist. She was named by the Georgia Council for Teachers of Mathematics as “Mathematics Teacher of the Year” in 1995, as has twice been named Douglas County High School Teacher of the Year, in 1989 and 1997.

Cribbs, a 28-year teaching veteran, was one of the first four Georgia educators to earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She was named Edwards Middle School’s Teacher of the Year in 1995. In 1996, Cribbs was appointed to the Board of Examiners for the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). She has served as co-chair of the Atlanta Math Project, a National Science Foundation Grant that includes mathematics teachers from 13 metro Atlanta school systems.

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