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Will $20,000 Grants Entice High-Demand Teachers?

Faced with a serious shortage of teachers in math, science, bilingual education and special education, California hopes that offering $20,000 will be enough for them to agree to teach these subjects for at least four years after receiving their teaching credential ("Bill would provide $20,000 grants to help recruit teachers in high-demand subjects," EdSource, Jan. 18).  I certainly hope so, but I'm not so sure for those in math and science.

It's not that $20,000 is chump change, but college graduates who have majored in math and the physical sciences can easily find jobs offering a premium above that amount.  Don't forget that the offer requires a four-year commitment to teaching these subjects in public schools in California.  You can be sure that the greatest need will be in inner-city schools, which have long been known for a high teacher-turnover rate.  Knowing that, new teachers will be reluctant to sign a contract for that long a period.  (I'm assuming now that there will be a penalty if teachers do not fulfill their commitment.)

The picture for bilingual and special education teachers is brighter.  Their expertise is not nearly in as much demand in the business world as their colleagues in math and the physical sciences.  As a result, the $20,000 grant will be far more attractive. The major obstacle for them will be their willingness to teach in inner-city and rural schools, which pose their own unique set of challenges. Moreover, four years can work as a disincentive for even the most dedicated teachers.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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