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Posted: May 1, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Recruiting trip aims to hire math, science teachers

Georgia not graduating many teachers in these fields

In a recent speech to the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Sonny Perdue explained how in the 2007-2008 school year, Georgia colleges graduated only one physics teacher, nine chemistry teachers and 140 math teachers. In an effort to provide students with quality teachers, the Newton County School System sent representatives to India earlier this year.

Dennis Carpenter, associate superintendent for human resources for the NCSS, said the system has signed an agreement with Global Teachers Research and Resources, which allows the system to hire teachers, as needed, in "critical needs areas" through them.

According to the GTRR Web site, www.gtrr.net, there is no cost to the school system to travel and interview the prospective teachers. Prior to being considered applicants must meet the minimum requirements, which according to the GTRR Web site include a demonstrated fluency in English, a citizenship possession outside of the United States, the equivalence a bachelor's degree or higher and completion of an accredited educator preparation program as well as have previous success in teaching. The organization also "only accepts applications from international applicants who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents or U.S. greencard holders."

"These teachers come to the United States after careful screening and an audit of their credentials, which ensures that they meet both state and federal highly qualified teacher standards," said Carpenter. He added that there were currently more than 360 international teachers employed in Georgia schools through a variety of providers like GTRR. If qualified local teachers for the 2009-2010 school year can not be found, NCSS could make selections from a pool of 25 qualified teachers recruited by Carpenter and Arena while on their India trip.

During a winter trip to India where Carpenter, along with Veterans Memorial Middle School principal Eric Arena, a principal of an expanding school who may have a need for international teachers at some point, according to Carpenter. The NCSS representatives conducted candidate screenings in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and New Delhi. Ten international teachers are currently employed by the NCSS.

"In the absence of employing 10 international teachers in June of 2008, the NCSS could have possibly began the 2008-2009 school year with at least nine classrooms not staffed with a highly qualified teacher," said Carpenter. "Given the fact that there is a critical shortage of highly qualified teachers in the areas of math, science and special education at both the state and national level, employing international teachers provides one method of combating this shortage.

"But," he continued, "understandably, during this economic downturn, the question is why are we eliminating teachers and recruiting teachers in India? The answer to that question is that the areas in which teachers are being eliminated statewide are not in the critical needs areas. Because of state and federal highly qualified mandates there is still the requirement to recruit and employ highly qualified teachers in critical needs areas; although this is hard to fathom during the current economic climate that is necessitating a reduction of teaching positions in other content areas."

Carpenter blamed the need on the lack of graduates in math, science and special education, not only in the state but nationwide, saying that enough graduates weren't being produced in those areas to meet the growing needs.

The graduates receiving degrees in math and science, Carpenter believes, are taking their skills to the private sector in careers that pay far more than teaching, though he did not have an opinion on why special education teachers were scarce.

Recently Gov. Perdue signed a bill (HB 280) that would allow new math and science teachers to start their careers at the beginning salary of a fifth year teacher, which is an increase of more than $4,500. The teacher's salary would continue to rise for five years after which the increase in salary would be tied to student performance.

The NCSS employs international teachers in the areas of math, science, special education and early childhood education, though it is unclear why early childhood education needs to be staffed since in the 2007-2008 school year 2,000 students graduated from Georgia colleges with degrees in early childhood education.


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