August 7, 2003, Extra Credit
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August 7, 2003
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 August 6
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Palm Beach County's Innovative Teacher Recruitment Program
Following is an editorial from Wednesday's Palm Beach Post:

This morning, 15 laid-off engineers, accountants and other professionals will be among the roughly 10,000 Palm Beach County teachers preparing classrooms for next week's first day of school. The graduates of the Intensive Teacher Education and Development Project are the first from a unique program that, through quick planning and creativity, is helping to reduce not just a critical teacher shortage but unemployment.

Florida Atlantic University, Palm Beach County's Workforce Alliance and the Palm Beach County School Board created the six-week boot camp after 300 employees lost their jobs last spring at Siemens Information and Network Systems in Boca Raton. Several expressed an interest in teaching. 'We thought: These people have good math skills,' Workforce Alliance Chief Executive Ken Montgomery told The Post. 'Why can't we get them to go into the classroom?'

When the 15 graduated last week, they had completed—in far less than the typical two or three years—the same courses teachers are required to take for state certification. They had received scholarships for tuition and books, and they continued to receive unemployment benefits while earning graduate credit hours. They've also been matched with experienced teachers to help them adjust to teaching middle- and high-school math. By January, if the graduates pass the state certification exam in the fall, they will be certified to teach anywhere in the state.

Such fast-track training could keep many more educated but unemployed or underemployed professionals from looking for jobs outside of the county. Their expertise is needed; in this district, math, English, biology, physics, chemistry and special-education teachers always are in high demand. In 2001, desperate to find math and science teachers, recruiters traveled to the Philippines. Last year, the district—in search of those willing to teach in the poorest-performing schools—went to California, where thousands of teachers had been laid off because of budget shortages.

In a county that has a 6.2 percent unemployment rate and still is 556 teachers short, the innovative program should continue. Out-of-work engineers, telecommunications workers, computer science experts and accountants need jobs. The district needs math and science teachers. Year-round 'summer school' would be a smart, local solution to both problems.


About Extra Credit
NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/23/2003