Posamentier Heads CCNY Pilot:
Immersion Helps Math Teacher Shortage
up for lunch.
New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy and City College
Dean of the School of Education Alfred S. Posamentier were enjoying
the midday meal one day, talking about –what else? –the shortage
of teachers, particularly in science and mathematics. “I think
that, with just a little preparation, I could have been a math
teacher myself,” Levy mused. “But I was not a math major in college.
So I would never have had the chance.”
a minute,” Posamentier replied. “We may have ourselves the germ
of an idea here.”
And it was a great idea, too. What if people with an interest
in teaching math who were non-math majors with a mathematics-related
background in their business lives, like Levy,got a chance to
receive the type of math immersion that would qualify them to
teach? “We needed to do something in order to jump-start the process,”
Levy said. “We had to get qualified teachers somewhere. Investment
bankers, bond traders, CPA’s and other professionals who show
proficiency in math and choose to become teachers need training
to know how to teach teenagers. But they shouldn’t have to become
math majors to do that.”
A seemingly radical step, yes. But the number of college math
majors–a requirement to qualify as a math teacher in New York
City public schools – has been dropping steadily. In fact, these
days, only about 1 percent of all graduates major in math.
In May, the State Board of Regents approved the pilot program.
The question, whether you must be a math major to be a topnotch
math teacher, continues to be debated within the academic community,
don’t believe that,” said Posamentier. “Experience tells me that
you could certainly achieve the required depth and level of knowledge
in other ways. And your delivery – the enthusiasm, the inspiration,
the creativity you show your students – is equally important.”
The City College pilot looked at the pool of 2000 potential career-changers
who applied for Teaching Fellows program with the Board of Education
and chose the 120 it felt was best-qualified for its Immersion
Program. “We wanted to see what one summer of intensive work could
accomplish,” Posamentier said. “The entire alternative certification
program is free of charge. The State, wisely, is providing us
with a special allowance.” Eventually, 57 candidates were selected,
50 of whom saw the program through to its conclusion “By and large,
they’ve done really well on their test,” said Posamentier. “And,
most importantly, these people want to teach. They are showing
a unique enthusiasm for communicating with kids.”
It’s early, but the signs of success for the pilot program have
already been remarkable. “These people are getting jobs,” said
Posamentier. “And not just so-so jobs, either. They have high
quality jobs in some of the better high schools all over the city.”#
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