PHOENIX — Arizona is following the lead of universities and allowing adjunct instructors to complement high school teaching ranks.
Beginning this fall, working engineers and scientists will sign on as adjunct teachers in a new pilot program.
These professionals can teach one class of calculus or algebra daily after 36 hours of teacher training and a background check.
Unlike adjunct instructors at universities, professionals teaching in high schools will not get paid.
The state calls the new volunteer program the Adjunct Teachers Initiative.
Qualified teaching candidates are hard to come by around the state. Many school principals are forced to fill classrooms with emergency teachers, especially in math and science.
Fueling the shortage are fewer school resources, large class sizes and inadequate teacher pay.
Arizona teachers average $42,967 a year, about $4,800 less than the national average, according to Education Week's Quality Counts 2008 report, a state-by-state assessment of public education.
In response to the shortage, state education officials started creating shortcuts for people who already had a bachelor's degree and wanted to teach.
By 2004, colleges were compressing two years of traditional teacher preparation into 10 months.
A year later, the state began allowing teachers to take full-time jobs after a six-week summer course.
The shortage deepened this year when the State Board of Education increased the number of math and science courses high school students must take to graduate.
Business leaders supported the increase in math and science courses and now need to help solve the problem of finding people to teach the courses, state schools superintendent Tom Horne said.
Adjunct teachers will spend their first semester with a licensed teacher, but Horne said he expects them to be ready to take over a daily class on their own as early as the middle of next school year.