Online Education

Lacking a Teacher, NJ High School Offers Chemistry on Computers

chemistry2

The Atlantic City School District could not find a certified chemistry teacher to fill a key chemistry teaching position at its one high school last summer and fall. So the district turned to Edmentum, a provider of online courses, to fill the void.

This year, four classes at Atlantic City High School are being taught via an online course, with backup support from an Earth science teacher who is not certified to teach chemistry. The full story can be found in The Press of Atlantic City.

“This is the way of the future,” said Assistant Superintendent Sherry Yahn in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City. She added that the district is looking at other online programs.

While students in the chemistry classes said they didn’t mind being able to work at their own pace, almost all interviewed said they would prefer a live teacher.

“Basically it’s like your teaching yourself,” junior Citlalli Madden, 17, told The Press. She said she is currently getting an A in chemistry.

The online chemistry classes at Atlantic City High School represent the confluence of several key education issues that are occurring across the country: a shortage of science teachers, cuts in school funding and the growth of online courses.

Only 80 new teachers were certified in chemistry in 2016, according to New Jersey Department of Education data. Only 41 new teachers were certified in physics.

While the online courses may seem to provide a temporary solution to budget and teacher-shortage issues, educators and administrators are wary of turning their brick-and-mortar schools into online academies.

Yahn said the school district is still looking for a chemistry teacher. But the district is also considering using Edmentum courses for an alternative high school program next year.

The Atlantic City School Board approved spending $35,400 for as many as five Edmentum EdOptions Academy chemistry classes at its January board meeting, according to The Press of Atlantic City. But board members strongly questioned Yahn about why that was necessary. Yahn said applicants agreed to take the chemistry teaching job, then backed out.

The district had a substitute in the class, Diana Arndt, who is certified in Earth science but not chemistry, so she could not teach the entire year. She remains in the class to assist.

“People can just make more money as scientists than they can as science teachers,” said Linda Smith, president of the New Jersey Science Teachers Association, in an interview with The Press.

To read the entire story, visit The Press of Atlantic City’s website. To learn more about Edmentum, visit that company’s site.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at rchang@1105media.com.

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