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'Bonus babies' throw in towel

UNITED STATES

ALMOST half the new teachers wooed with $20,000 (pound;12,500) bonuses from other professions under a flagship Massachusetts scheme have quit, it has emerged.

American schools are casting their nets ever wider, courting unqualified candidates to plug gaping staffing holes left by growing numbers of retirements and a high turnover of newer teachers.

The push is endorsed by US education secretary Rod Paige, who has touted fast-track retraining of recruits from "non-traditional backgrounds".

But the desertion rate from Massachusetts's "bonus baby" scheme, which dispatches new teachers to the classroom after as little as two months'

intensive training, suggests such efforts may be ineffective because recruits are so badly prepared for classroom demands.

Of the 59 entrants in 1999, the initiative's first year, 46 per cent have left teaching, according to figures released in December. Among 2000 and 2001 recruits the attrition rate was 28 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.

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