Monday, February 16, 2009

Educators Meet at TCNJ to Discuss TQE-R Grant

On January 27th a meeting about future teacher recruitment was held at the College of New Jersey. Some of the notable attendees included Commissioner Lucille Davy and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Jay Doolan of the New Jersey Department of Education, representatives from the New Jersey Education Association, the International President of Phi Delta Kappa, and representatives from the College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, Rowan University, Georgian Court University and William Paterson University.

They gathered to review the progress made so far with the Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment (TQE-R) Grant the College was awarded in 2005 by the US Department of Education and to discuss the future of teacher recruitment in New Jersey through expansion of the current programs. Leading the meeting were Larry Fieber, Urban Recruitment Coordinator, and Dr. Sharon Sherman, Principal Investigator of the TQE-R Grant, both from the College of New Jersey.

The National Education Association (NEA) predicts that more than two million teachers will be needed in the next ten years. Teacher shortages exist nationwide, but vary by geographic and content areas. The TQE-R Grant was awarded in order to increase future teacher recruitment, especially in high-poverty schools and in high-shortage subject areas.

To give an example of the disparity in New Jersey, 17 percent of Trenton Central High School classes were not taught by highly qualified teachers in 2006-2007, while neighboring West-Windsor Plainsboro High School classes were all taught by highly qualified teachers. Also, 5.5 percent of all Camden School District's classes were not taught by highly qualified teachers in 2006-2007, while all of the classes in neighboring suburban Moorestown were taught by highly qualified teachers.

Shortages are most prevalent in the disciplines of math, science, special education, technology, bilingual education, world languages and early childhood education. Schools that cannot find teachers for these subjects are forced to hire substitutes who are not as qualified to teach the curriculum. This disparity is striking, and sheds light on the need for more qualified teachers in New Jersey.

A major concern at the meeting was the importance of allocating funds to sustain the programs implemented through the TQE-R Grant and expand them statewide. There has been an overwhelming response from students and faculties at New Jersey schools waiting to implement programs such as the Urban Teacher Academy and Tomorrow's Teachers. However, the TQE-R Grant will run out in September 2009.

Commissioner Lucille Davy from the New Jersey Department of Education expressed cautious optimism about allocating funds. She said that she was aware of how important these programs are and would do what she can to maintain these programs and see about possible expansion. With the current economic crisis and budget cuts, it will be hard to find the money to continue future teacher recruitment. The funds allocated to education in the Economic Stimulus Package might be enough to continue future teacher recruitment. However, the money might also need to come from sources other than the state and national governments. The New Jersey Education Association is one of the organizations that intend to contribute to these initiatives.

It will be a challenge for those passionate about future teacher recruitment to keep the programs implemented by the TQE-R Grant going. President Obama’s education platform emphasizes the importance of recruiting well-qualified teachers for every classroom, especially in high-poverty schools. As Dr. Carol Bresnahan, Provost and Executive Vice President at the College, said, “All students, regardless of economic status, need and deserve highly qualified teachers."

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