- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - A new state audit suggests that lawmakers may want to reconsider incentive programs aimed at attracting more and better-trained math and science teachers.

Lawmakers approved the program in the late 2000s amid concerns about a shortage of math and science teachers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (https://bit.ly/1OmZx5b).

The program, which pays incentives to some math and science teachers, is budgeted to cost more than $15 million this year.

It isn’t clear whether the incentives have helped slow the attrition of math and science teachers, auditors say. The audit also found that shortages of math and science teachers may not be as big a problem in Georgia as they are nationally.

Georgia has spent about $90 million in incentives for math and science teachers since the program’s inception.

Based on the impact of the incentive efforts, “the General Assembly may wish to revisit the continued need for the math and science incentives in their current form,” auditors wrote in the report.

Officials with Georgia’s Professional Standards Commission said that they believe the state will experience a shortage of math and science teachers in future years. Metro Atlanta districts were reporting earlier this school year that their largest teaching vacancies were in math, science, special education and foreign languages, the Journal-Constitution reported.

The Professional Standards Commission works to certify and recruit educators in Georgia, among other responsibilities.

In their response to the audit, Professional Standards Commission officials said the incentive programs are still relatively new. They should be given more time to address design and implementation issues before lawmakers evaluate whether to keep or scrap them, commission officials said.

A state report showed that the five-year attrition rate of high school teachers newly hired in 2010 was between 39 percent and 45 percent for most subjects. The attrition rate of foreign language teachers was highest, at 45 percent, with math teachers coming in second, at 44 percent.

Atlanta math teacher Sajatta Latten said she wasn’t surprised by the findings. She’s one of two math teachers at the Early College High School at Carver.

Learning to manage a classroom is one of the biggest challenges for a new teacher, and that work was intensified by the ever-changing math standards dictated by the state, plus a lack of “support” for the rookie teachers, she said.

“I just think that newer teachers could not keep up with how much the curriculum was changing,” Latten said. “I don’t think they were equipped to handle it.” .

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com

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