Students - and teachers - catch up at summer school

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Lawmakers and bureaucrats are wrestling with two seemingly unrelated and complex education problems in New York: the need to improve learning by students in inner-city schools, and the need to improve the skills of student teachers in college.

Assemblyman Roger Green of Brooklyn, a former teacher, sees one solution. He wants to send kids in poorly performing schools in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and other big cities to the state's public teacher colleges for six or seven weeks in the summer. There, future teachers would gain critical classroom experience with students, while the kids would get a chance to catch up in a positive academic environment. Mr. Green even sees a chance for gifted kids to take advanced-placement courses there, providing a role model for other students while graduating early and freeing space in overcrowded urban schools.

Green said the plan has worked already for a group of Brooklyn students and in other states, and is consistent with a Manhattan judge's ruling last month that the state must drastically increase funding of city schools because the state failed its constitutional obligation to provide a sound education. First among Justice Leland DeGrasse's calls: more qualified teachers.

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Lawmakers and higher-education officials last week found Green's concept of interest.

"Yes, we would certainly consider that," said State University of New York Chancellor Robert King at a hearing. "We want to be part of the solution ... and stand ready to help." Mr. King said the SUNY system has 15 colleges that offer education majors, and that SUNY produces 25 percent to 40 percent of the state's teachers.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is pressing for better teachers for his troubled district. "The reality is, we don't have a shortage of teachers, we have a shortage of the best teachers," he said.

Gov. George Pataki's proposed budget for fiscal 2001-02 calls for a new program that would provide $7.5 million as an incentive to teachers in large urban districts to improve student performance.

Mr. Pataki's proposed budget also calls for a doubling of funding for the state's Teachers of Tomorrow program that in part provides additional ways for qualified candidates to enter teaching.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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