College Aid for Minority Teachers Part of CAPE's Agenda
Washington--As part of what its leaders say is a broad-based drive to "get out in front on change," the Council for American Private Education is considering the development of a college-loan program that would pay the tuition of minority students who agree to teach in private schools after graduation.
Members of the council said at a meeting here last week that cape would seek foundation support for the loan program as part of its overall effort to recruit more minority faculty members for private institutions.
The recruitment plan, which is in a preliminary stage of development, is one of several initiatives the organization is studying as it completes a two-year project to develop an "action plan."
A coalition of 14 private-school organizations, cape undertook the planning project last year as a means of meeting the challenges posed by public-school reform, according to officials.
Other areas the group is exploring include private-school accreditation, early-childhood education, and teacher training and retention.
"Our general feeling is that we ought to be pro-active," said Robert L. Smith, executive director of the council. "This is an exciting time for education."
That the group has tackled these areas demonstrates a new and "en4ergetic" approach to private-school leadership, said John C. Esty Jr., president of the National Association of Independent Schools. At cape's Oct. 26-27 meeting, Mr. Esty was named as its new president.
"I would like to work toward developing much more vigorous collaborative projects than we have in the past," he said.
The minority-teacher proposal, which has not yet been formally advanced, would be similar to tuition-remission programs offered by sev8eral states as an inducement for college students to plan teaching careers.
The cape program would specifically identify minority college students in need of such assistance. The number of years they would be required to teach after graduation for repayment has not been determined.
"There's a tremendous need for minority teachers, especially in urban private schools," said Alvin Vanden Bosch, chairman of the Illinois Advisory Committee on Non-Public Schools, a cape member group.
The proposal will be developed in detail after the council finds a foundation sponsor, Mr. Smith said.
The recruitment and retention of teachers is one of the most serious problems facing private education, said Mr. Vanden Bosch, and it was one of the prime areas targeted last year when cape convened a task force on the future to look at ways private schools could "get out in front on change." (See Education Week, March 25, 1987.)
At the October meeting, the board of directors decided that cape should become a clearinghouse for information that could help private schools attract and keep teachers. To further that goal, the organization will survey schools identified in the Exemplary Private Schools program on the teacher-recruitment and retention methods they employ.
The nais, in conjunction with cape and other organizations, has developed a series of television commercials designed to foster interest in teaching. The commercials, which Mr. Esty described as being similar to advertisements for the Peace Corps and the armed forces, will be shown on network television beginning in about six weeks. Support for the campaign has come from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Advertising Council.
A second major issue facing private schools that was discussed at the meeting was accountability. The extent of state regulation private schools face, their ability to compete for corporate matching funds, and their reputations often depend on whether they have been examined by an accrediting agency, said Mr. Smith.
He said that there were "hundreds" of accrediting agencies for private institutions but that accrediting by a national group such as cape might carry more weight.
The cost of such an effort--put in the millions--was thought to be prohibitive at the present time, and the cape board elected to study existing accreditation programs to find their common elements.
Most accreditation programs use the same process, Mr. Smith explained. "If this is spelled out, it will reassure anyone that we do have in place the right systems," he said.
Last spring, the board had approved the development of a national private-school "report card" similar to the Education Department's annual "wall chart" of statistics on public education.
But Mr. Smith said that the project had proved "difficult and time-consuming," and that the accreditation study, if successful, would accomplish the same goal--showing that private schools were accountable for students' academic development.
N.D.N. Grant Questioned
Those attending the meeting also cited a $184,000 grant awarded to cape in September by the U.S. Education Department's National Diffusion Network as evidence that the group was "out front" in educational change.
The grant's purpose is to facilitate the adoption of innovative curricula in private schools. But some ndn members have criticized it as being unnecessary and have questioned whether it was earmarked specifically for the council.
But those here said that private schools had been disproportionately underrepresented in the number of schools adopting programs from the network, representing only about 3.8 percent of total adoptions.
The current ndn appropriation is $10.7 million.
Lois N. Weinberg, the program specialist for the ndn who will oversee the cape project, said public schools often have better access to public funds and that the ndn members in each state find it easier to work with public schools.
But some ndn members resent the fact that the department never made private-school adoptions a priority until bringing in cape, according to Max McConkey, a spokesman for the National Dissemination Study Group, a professional association of ndn participants.
"If the department had said, 'It's a priority to get more private schools,' we would have produced," Mr. McConkey said in an interview last week. He claimed that the grant would have been better spent on increasing the average appropriation for each ndn state member.
Mr. McConkey also questioned whether the grant description had been written in such a way as to exclude any contractors or associations besides cape, since the group submitted the only application.
Ms. Weinberg, however, said that the request for proposals had been advertised in the Federal Register, as are all of the department's grants. "It was an open process," she said.
The department received about two dozen requests for information on the grant, but only cape applied, she said.
Despite his questions about the award, Mr. McConkey said he did not harbor any resentment toward cape. "We think the thing was ill-conceived from the start, but if we're proven wrong, we will join the chorus to press for [the grant's] continuance," he said.
'Not Changing Emphasis'
The council will add two positions to its three-member staff for the ndn project. But Mr. Smith said that the group's new initiatives and ''energetic" approach were built on long established priorities.
"We're not changing our emphasis, nor are we branching out in new directions," said the executive director.
The council will continue, he said, to press its case in the Congress and the Education Department on matters that affect private schools.
But Mr. Esty, the first independent-school leader to head the cape board since the group's founding in 1971, has opposed cape on one issue that has been a focus of lobbying efforts: tuition tax credits. He has said that independent schools have the resources to raise funds to support economically disadvantaged students who wish to attend them.
Other sectarian private-school associations within cape also favor such avenues to diversity, and Mr. Esty said he expected such disagreements to be commonplace in such a group. "That's one of the strengths of a collective group of private schools," he said.
The number of areas that private schools can agree on is increasing, he added. "It's important for us to speak out more strongly on the issues that unite all of us."