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Survey Offers Glimpse of Interviews for Teaching Jobs

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Chicago--Preliminary findings from a national survey of beginning teachers suggest that "illegal or inappropriate" questions about marital status may crop up in as many as one-fourth of all interviews for teaching jobs.

The study, some early findings of which were presented at a meeting here of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, is thought to provide the first glimpse--from a teacher's perspective--of what goes on during the critical teaching-job interview.

It is one of two national surveys completed recently by the Association for School, College, and University Staffing Inc., which represents the placement officers who help find jobs for prospective teachers coming out of U.S. education schools.

Aacte also surveyed its members and found that, despite widely reported teacher shortages, college-placement officials are less optimistic than they used to be about job prospects for teachers. That study also was released during the meeting here Feb. 21-24.

Wrong Questions

The study of beginning teachers, known as the "ascus National Teacher Interview Survey," is based on a survey last spring of more than 525 teachers in 28 states. Most of the teachers were generally positive about the interview process.

More than one-quarter of those polled, however, said they had been asked "inappropriate or illegal" questions about their marital status during one or more teaching-job interviews. Those questions were posed most frequently to older applicants, the findings show, and male teachers encountered them as frequently as female teachers.

"We presume the interviewers were not trying to be bad persons," said Steve Head, assistant director of educational placement and career services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He conducted the study, along with Rebecca Anthony, a placement associate at the University of Iowa's educational-planning office.

"They may have been trying to get at other information, such as 'Can we expect you to stay around for awhile?"' Mr. Head said.

However, in some states, such as Wisconsin, questions about marital status pose a potential violation of law, Ms. Anthony noted. The study indicated that improper questions about age also had been posed to 15 percent of the teachers during interviews.

On another topic, a surprisingly large 38 percent of the beginning teachers said they did not apply to districts that had forms they considered to be "too lengthy or too difficult." The majority of the teachers, however,a8bout 78 percent, said forms were typically clear and concise.

Among other findings, the researchers found that:

The most commonly asked questions in job interviews dealt with classroom management. About 88 percent of the teachers said they had encountered such questions.

Questions about applicants' grades or college activities appeared to be among the subjects of least interest to interviewers--possibly, the study suggests, because they already had been answered on application forms.

Male teachers were asked more frequently about their coaching interests than were female teachers. Half of the male teachers polled and one-fifth of the female teachers said job interviewers had asked them if they were interested in coaching.

Interview questions about educational philosophy, though frequently asked, were rated among the "toughest" by the teachers.

Stagnant Job Market

Ms. Anthony said the study, expected to be completed this summer, will be published by ascus as part of a practical guide for those involved in the placement and interviewing process for teachers.

In contrast to the teacher survey, which was the first of its kind, the report on teacher supply and demand was the group's 14th such annual assessment. It was based on responses from placement officials at 265 postsecondary schools.

Only 40 percent of the placement officials polled rated the job market for elementary-school teachers last fall as "much better" or "better" than it had been the year before. This represents a decrease from one year earlier, when 49 percent of the placement officials gave that response, and from the 57 percent figure recorded two years ago.

The placement officials offered somewhat gloomier prospects for graduates looking for work as secondary-school teachers. Only 31 percent said the job market in that area was "better" or "much better" than it was a year ago, compared with 39 percent who said so one year earlier and 58 percent two years ago.

Another 17 percent of the respondents said job prospects for both elementary and secondary teachers were "worse" or "much worse" than they were a year ago.

And, consistent with some other national studies, the survey also found that demands were greatest for special-education teachers.

Copies of the report on supply and demand are available at a cost of $10 each for nonmembers and $5 for members from: the Association for School, College, and University Staffing Inc., c/o Evans Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., S-330, Evanston, Ill. 60204-3494.

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