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Research on Minority-Teacher Shortage Planned

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Washington--The nation's leading teacher-education group is proposing to set up a new research center to grapple with the issues surrounding the growing shortage of minority teachers.

At the first meeting here of a task force formed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education to plan the center, participants said it would work to improve the academic achievement of minority students and attempt to bring issues of equity to the forefront of the education-reform movement. (See Education Week, Nov. 20, 1985.)

aacte officials said they envision a center that would convene "outstanding" researchers to review and produce research on those issues and disseminate it to the nation's schools, colleges, and universities.

"At the same time that the number of minority students is increasing and the need for specialized programs to reach their potential is apparent, there is a decrease in the number of minority persons who are becoming teachers," the project's proposal states.

It cites teacher-competency testing as perhaps the single most important factor contributing to the problem.

"These tests are a disaster" for prospective minority teachers, said Peter Garcia, dean for extended education and government relations at Pan American University in Edinburg, Tex.

"People don't ask questions with regard to racial equity when reform policies like these are passed," said G. Pritchy Smith, chairman of the division of curriculum and instruction at the University of North Florida. The impact on minorities "is not of great concern to most people in society."

Gloria Scott, vice president of Clark College in Atlanta, went further in her comments, calling some of the effects of the current reform movement and the political motivations of a number of its elected leaders "an eloquent manifestation of racism."

Task-force members also said that it is not enough just to work at the college and university level to improve minority students' test performance. More must be done to assure that minority children receive a high-quality education in grades K-12, they said.

Comprising 16 representatives of aacte institutions and other education organizations, the task force will assist aacte in defining the center's goals and structure, and advise the group on other ways it can improve minority access to the teaching profession, said David G. Imig, the association's executive director.

According to the project's prospectus, the center would serve as a clearinghouse for research on minority achievement in education and would monitor current and proposed policies and actions at the state and national levels.

In addition, it would encourage aacte's 725 members to undertake research and development in this area with the goal of "assuring that the number of competent minority teachers increases to meet the needs of the nation's schools."

No Formal Agreement

The task force reached no formal agreement on the specific form the center should take.

But the group's facilitator, Jack Gant, professor of education at Florida State University and a former aacte president, said he "sensed" general agreement that the minority-teacher shortage and the teacher-testing movement pose a "major problem" and that "it is a good move for aacte to put the center together."

"In America's quest for excellence in education, there is a potential for and evidence that minorities will be adversely affected educationally, politically, and economically," Mr. Gant said. "Our intention is not to stop the movement toward excellence, but rather to put into the equation these side effects we are seeing."

In addition, Mr. Gant called on the task-force members "to do some creative thinking" about financial resources for the center. aacte has yet to obtain funding for the project, other than a planning grant from General Telephone & Electronics Corporation.

Said Mr. Gant: "People have to see that this is not a minority problem; this is America's problem."

The task force will meet again next spring.

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