Two months' holiday at risk

10th March 2000 at 00:00

EDUCATION secretary Richard Riley is calling for longer school years in America - not for students, but for teachers.

Mr Riley wants at least two months added to the nine months that most teachers work, and the extra time devoted to professional development, creating lessons or working with struggling students.

He has also called for significant pay rises to address the widening gap between teachers' salaries and those of other professionals.

In his seventh annual report on American education, Mr Riley said demands that students learn more in school are being thwarted by a shortage of well-trained teachers. Nationwide, an estimated two million newteachers are needed over the next 10 years.

"Making teaching a year-round profession is the future of American education," Mr Riley told an audience at a North Carolina high school. To do that, he said, it will be necessary to raise pay. "We can no longer get teachers on the cheap," he said, citing figures showing that teachers with master's degrees make barely more than half as much as those working in other fields.

Despite the lure of higher pay, some teachers immediately objected to the idea of working more than nine months. Many enjoy teaching "because they don't have to work a full year", said Day Higuchi, president of the teachers' union in Los Angeles.

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