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Jasey, Coutinho, Benson & Caputo Bill to Address Teacher Shortages in Math & Science Signed Into Law

New Program Comes on Heels of Similar, Successful Pilot Program Two Years Ago

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Albert Coutinho, Dan Benson and Ralph Caputo to help reduce teacher shortages, particularly in science and mathematics, was signed into law on Thursday.

The new program comes on the heels of a similar, successful pilot program, known as “Traders to Teachers,” which was sponsored by Jasey several years ago.

“The initial pilot program produced demonstrable results in filling some of our most pressing gaps in education,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris), a member of the Assembly Education Committee. “This legislation has helped us better prepare our students to compete in the new global economy while also providing a productive means of employment for those hit hard by the recession. It has truly been a win-win, one that we should replicate to fill the continued shortages we face in science, technology, engineering and math.”

The new law (A-2311) will permit already certificated New Jersey teachers to participate in an expedited program to become credentialed to teach science and mathematics subjects on the secondary level, or any subject area in which there is a shortage of teachers in the state as determined by the United States Department of Education.

“When we talk about equipping our students with the tools to succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy, this is exactly the type of program we need,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “It’s no secret that we tend to lag behind other developed nations in the areas of math and science. Addressing the teacher shortage in these subject areas will hopefully inspire a new generation of students to excel in these fields.”

Under the program, the State Board of Examiners will issue a subject area endorsement in mathematics or science, as appropriate, upon successful completion of the program to a teaching staff member who:

(1) Passes the appropriate state test of subject matter knowledge; and

(2) Meets such other criteria as the commissioner sets forth in regulation. The commissioner has the authority under the program to establish different criteria for completion of the program based on factors such as the subject area in which the individual intends to teach.

“This law provides an excellent incentive to redirect highly-qualified teachers to help address shortages in critical subject areas,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This program has had demonstrable success in the last few years and should be replicated to continue meeting shortages that might otherwise impede a student’s ability to succeed.”

The law will establish, on a permanent basis, a number of the provisions of the pilot program developed in the Department of Education to address the state’s shortage of science and mathematics teachers and established pursuant to the earlier law passed in 2009. The pilot program expired in January 2012.

“Education is the key to success, but for students that can only be accomplished with adequate levels of staffing, particularly in more challenging subject areas,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Lowering classroom sizes helps boost student achievement, which will benefit them all around in the long-run.”

Jasey’s original 2009 legislation was designed to help fast track the training of unemployed Wall Street traders and pharmaceutical employees to fill critical teacher shortages in the areas of science and math.

The NJ Center for Teaching and Learning (NJCTL), under the direction of Dr. Bob Goodman, is funded and run by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), has worked in partnership with Kean University to create the Progressive Science Initiative (PSI), the pilot program that was born out of Jasey’s legislation.

Jasey noted that the PSI initiative has helped increase the creation of physics teachers in New Jersey by an astounding 438 percent in the first two years of its implementation. In the eight years prior to its creation, all of the colleges and universities in New Jersey produced a combined average of 8 physics teachers per year.

In the two years since NJCTL and Kean University came together to work on PSI, the program has produced 80 physics teachers and 25 chemistry teachers. All told, the program is expected to impact roughly 10,000 New Jersey high school students by the end of this school year.