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Reading Up on Teaching and Diversity

Just a heads-up on a couple of interesting recent items on the teaching profession and racial demographics:

In The New York Times, education reporter Motoko Rich looks at the growing disparity between the racial make-up of public school students and that of the teaching profession. While minority students have recently become a majority in public schools, she notes, more than 80 percent of teachers are white, according to government statistics.

Some scholars, Rich says, believe that this racial gap, especially when extreme, may affect minority students' achievement and engagement in school.

Rich highlights a number of different explanations for why there aren't more teachers of color in schools. She notes, for example, that fewer African-Americans graduate from college than whites and that many minority college students, saddled with debt, are inclined to choose majors with better salary prospects than education.

But she also notes that teachers of color tend to leave the profession at a higher rate than whites—in part because of the working-conditions inequities:

They are disproportionately assigned to schools with large populations of children from low-income families, and are subjected to 'student discipline problems and lack of resources and lower salaries, with often more top-down and scripted curricula,' said [Richard] Ingersoll [of the University of Pennsylvania]. He said minority teachers frequently cited frustration with management and lack of autonomy as reasons they quit.

To illustrate, Rich highlights an African-American middle middle school teacher who left teaching after two years because of her district's rigid and "culturally out of sync" curriculum.

Meanwhile, on a tangentially related theme, District Administration has a piece reporting on an apparently growing number of teacher education offerings that focus on building educators' knowledge of foreign and immigrant cultures.

Columbia University's Teachers College, for example, now offers a global competency certificate. According to the District Administrator piece, teachers in the program take courses in "economic globalization, politics, social movements, and urbanization" and then spend time doing field work in South America or Africa.

The program is designed to help teachers better understand and adapt to the shifting classroom demographics and intercultural learning priorities:

'Society is becoming more diverse with immigration,' says William Gaudelli, a co-leader in the development of the certificate curriculum and an associate professor of social studies and education at Teachers College. 'Teachers need to know something about what it means for immigrants to come to a new community for political or economic needs.'

Many teachers are looking to fill in those knowledge gaps. Teachers for Global Classrooms, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, had some 400 applications for 80 spots in the last cycle.

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