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Teachers Column

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The teaching profession--which traditionally has been white and female--is likely to become even more so, according to a researcher who looked at surveys of college freshmen conducted over 22 years.

Ronald Opp, a research analyst with the higher-education research institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, examined surveys by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program. Among his findings:

  • Among freshmen identifying themselves as prospective teachers, the percentage who were women increased from 72 percent in 1966 to 80 percent in 1987.
  • The percentage of prospective teachers who were white also increased, from 90 percent in 1966 to 93 percent in 1987.
  • The percentage of black freshmen planning to teach has decreased, from a high of 6 percent in 1976 to 5 percent since then.
  • The percentage of prospective teachers who rate themselves as "above average or in the top 10 percent'' on a wide variety of traits has decreased since 1966, compared with the responses of freshmen interested in other careers.

The decline was particularly steep on self-ratings of academic and mathematical ability and intellectual self-confidence.

Mr. Opp also found that the percentage of prospective teachers majoring in education has doubled: from 40 percent in 1966 to 80 percent in 1987. At the same time, the percentages of future teachers majoring in the biological sciences, English, history or political science, humanities, fine arts, mathematics, physical sciences, and social sciences have all declined significantly.

In an interview last week, Mr. Opp warned that, based on his findings, recent calls to eliminate undergraduate education majors could exacerbate a predicted shortage of teachers.

And because more and more prospective teachers begin their postsecondary education at two-year institutions, he argued that more attention must be paid to the transition from these institutions to four-year colleges.


The National Education Association has released the first in a series of cable-television programs designed to encourage local communities to discuss pressing national issues.

The film, "AIDS: Is Our Community Ready?,'' will be piloted in 32 communities in 17 states. Local union affiliates plan to work with cable operators in their areas to schedule broadcast time for the program.

Future installments in the "Our Town'' series will focus on drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and other social problems. Each of the 30-minute programs will begin with a pre-taped segment that features a national overview of the topic, followed by a panel discussion among local community leaders.--LO

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