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Published in Print: March 13, 1991, as Recruitment Ads Said To Uncover Teacher Source

Recruitment Ads Said To Uncover Teacher Source

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One-quarter of the callers who have responded to Recruiting New Teachers' lpublic-service advertising campaign are members of minority groups, according to a study released last week, representing what the organization calls a "massive outpouring" of interest in teaching that school-district recruiters have not tapped.

The survey, conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, found a high level of dissatisfaction with the current teacher-recruitment system among all respondents. Nearly half said they believed that school districts simply try to fill job openings, rather than strive to find the best-qualified candidates.

In addition, members of minority groups perceived the recruitment system to be racially biased, Mr. Harris said. Only 46 percent said they felt that competent minority teachers would be "very much welcomed" by recruiters; 33 percent thought principals would very much welcome them, and 32 percent thought white teachers would very much welcome them into the schools.

The results of the survey indicate, Mr. Harris said, that "without innovation and a new attitude toward recruiting, school systems will not be able to tap all of the talent that this study suggests is ready to flood classrooms all over the country."

The survey also found that 40 percent of those who had responded to the campaign had either started teaching or were in the process of becoming teachers.

Recruiting New Teachers has logged more than 390,000 calls since it began its television advertising campaign in 1988--one of the largest responses ever recorded for an Advertising Council campaign, according to David Rockefeller Jr., chairman of the group's board of directors.

The Belmont, Mass.-based nonprofit organization also has received more than $75 million in donated advertising.

When the campaign began, Mr. Rockefeller noted, board members believed that the nation was suffering from a lack of talented people who were "willing and able" to go into teaching.

That theory has been disproved, he said, by the large number of qualified people who have responded to the campaign.

However, he added, these people have encountered "significant barriers" to entering the profession.

'Achilles' Heel of Reform'

"Our conclusion is that the school-reform movement has an Achilles' heel," Mr. Rockefeller said. "Put bluntly, at a time when the process of teacher recruitment should be of serious national concern, it has become an inefficient, bewildering, and bureaucratic maze."

Callers who dial 1-800-45-teach are sent brochures about teaching that include optional response cards. Of the nearly 400,000 callers, 112,000 returned cards, the survey showed.

The organization shares the names of prospective teachers who mail in cards with a national network of more than 700 colleges and universities, school districts, state education departments, and educational associations. These groups then contact individuals about teaching opportunities.

For the survey, 2,750 people who responded to the campaign in the spring and late summer of 1990 were interviewed. At that time, the organization had collected 77,000 names of potential teachers; since then, another 33,000 have been added to the data base.

At the time of the survey, 88 percent of all respondents indicated that they were still interested in teaching. Among members of minority groups, 91 percent said they still wanted to teach--a number representing 17,626 potential teachers, Mr. Harris said.

He called the fact that 25 percent of the callers were minorities "astonishing," since minority groups make up 20 percent of the total population and 10 percent of the current teaching force.

Of the respondents who were members of minority groups, 16 percent were African-American, 6 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian-American, and 1 percent Native American.

Although Recruiting New Teachers initially assumed that most callers would be young people, the survey found that three-quarters of the respondents were age 23 or older.

The callers' gender also closely mirrors the split among the general adult public, Mr. Harris said: 54 percent were women, and 46 percent were men. The numbers were "dramatically different" from the makeup of the current teaching force, he noted, which is 69 percent female and 31 percent male.

The callers also were better educated than the general public. More than 60 percent had completed four years of college; three-quarters of those who had not had completed at least some college. Of callers who were 22 or older, 75 percent were college graduates.

Twenty-two percent had done postgraduate work, 10 percent had a master's degree, and 1 percent had a doctorate, the study found.

Minority respondents were more likely to have attended two-year, rather than four-year, colleges, according to the survey, but a higher percentage of black respondents held doctorates, and more minority students of college age said they were interested in majoring in education.

In addition, 27 percent of the respondents already were certified to teach, and one in three of those certified was employed as a teacher.

Mr. Harris said he believes the teachers who responded to the advertisements were looking for more challenging assignments and could be in danger of leaving the profession.

Nearly 75 percent of all respondents had not taught before--representing the campaign's target audience. More than one-quarter of that group had some experience in schools as volunteers or substitute teachers.

The reasons that survey respondents gave for their interest in teaching reflected that they "are not looking for a sinecure, but instead for a challenge," Mr. Harris said.

The respondents said they were opposed to traditional seniority systems and their automatic job security, the survey found. Instead, the respondents said they were willing to be held accountable for their performance by working under multi-year contracts.

But their attitudes most strongly diverged from those of the current teaching force when they were asked where they would be willing to teach. Eighty-four percent said they would be willing to work in a multicultural setting, the survey found, and 77 percent said they would be glad to work with disadvantaged students.

Of the respondents who were surveyed, 40 percent have made "significant progress" toward becoming teachers, Mr. Harris reported.

Ten percent have become employed as teachers; 7 percent have completed teacher training and are waiting to be hired; 15 percent have enrolled in teacher-training programs; and 8 percent have applied for admission to such programs.

The rate of progress means that Recruiting New Teachers has helped to bring 30,000 new teachers into the system--a figure that Mr. Harris said compares favorably with the 125,000 teachers who graduate each year from preparation programs.

While acknowledging that some of those individuals likely would have become teachers without the organization's help, Mr. Harris said more than 80 percent of the respondents credited the advertisements with "pushing them to take some positive steps toward entering the classroom."

Recruiting organizations contacted 4,230 of the potential minority teachers. The number of minority candidates assisted by the network compares "extremely favorably" with the 9,242 members of minority groups who received bachelor's degrees in education in 1985, the study noted.

Recruiting New Teachers has "had to scramble" to meet the needs of its respondents, Mr. Harris said. At the time the survey was conducted, it had about 200 "recruiting partners" that got in touch with one in five respondents.

By the end of this year, the organization hopes to have expanded its network to 1,600. Even with more partners, the organization has to help recruiters get accustomed to pursuing people who do not come through the normal channels and to using the available data base creatively, Mr. Harris said.

In addition to releasing the survey results, the directors of Recruiting New Teachers also have endorsed the several strategies for changing the current recruitment system:

Passing legislation pending in the Congress that focuses on teacher recruitment, training, induction, and professional development.

Creating local and state initiatives to merge state, district, and university efforts to recruit and retain teachers.

Creating a national clearinghouse of information about pathways into teaching and job openings.

Smoothing barriers to teacher mobility by creating certification-reciprocity agreements among various states.

Addressing the lack of pension portability, which prevents many teachers from moving to new states.

Encouraging the private sector to help school districts revamp their personnel practices.

Promoting financial-aid programs to help low-income students, members of minority groups, and nontraditional students become teachers.

Vol. 10, Issue 25, Page 1, 25

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