Center Launches Effort To Recruit Hispanic Teachers

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The Tomas Rivera Center, a public-policy research center that focuses on the concerns of Chicanos and Latinos in the United States, has launched a pilot project to increase the number of Hispanic teachers in the Southwest.

The Exxon Education Foundation is supporting the project, believed to be the first to specifically target Hispanic teachers, through a series of grants totaling $772,577 to four universities.

Each of the four schools--California State University at San Bernardino, San Diego State University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos--plans to focus on the recruitment and retention of Hispanic students who are interested in becoming teachers.

They will do so by restructuring their programs to provide the students with formal orientation activities, opportunities to take courses together and work in small groups, and workshops that expose them to the teaching profession.

Each school also will establish a student center where the prospective teachers can gather to study and get to know one another.

The project's emphasis on building such "learning communities" is modeled after a successful program to increase the number of minority engineers that is being used by 18 California universities.

Yolanda Rodriguez Ingle, a research associate at the Tomas Rivera Center and the project's coordinator, said the approach has promise because it breaks the isolation that Hispanic students often feel in large, impersonal universities.

"Our contention is that many institutions have services like a tutoring center or remedial courses," Ms. Ingle said. "But, in essence, they have never really been integrated into the school of education in such a way that students feel a connection." Each university is targeting a different type of student: community college transfer students, teachers' aides, incoming freshmen, and students returning to school from other jobs to pursue new careers in teaching.

Cooperative Learning

Margarita Calderon, director of the Tutoring and Learning Center at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the pilot project appealed to her because of its emphasis on cooperative learning.

Students who work together to complete their studies will be more likely to use such strategies in their own classrooms and with other teachers when they graduate, she noted.

Sixty percent of the university's students are Hispanic, and many are at risk of academic failure, she said. At the same time, "school districts here are clamoring for bilingual teachers," Ms. Calderon added. "They are always getting after us for not producing enough--they never make it through the pipeline."

The project grew out of a study conducted by the Tomas Rivera Center of 46 colleges and universities in the Southwest with a significant number of Chicano and Latino students in their teacher-training programs.

The study concluded that, although many schools had adopted promising practices to assist minority students, none had adopted a systematic approach to the problems of Hispanic students, Ms. Ingle said.

The study identified academic difficulties, low faculty expectations of students, social isolation, an inhospitable university environment, and financial problems as the major factors contributing to minority students' high dropout rates.

Regional Network Planned

The universities selected for the project serve large numbers of Chicano and Latino students. They will share their experiences with four more universities with similar student bodies: California State University at Chico, New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and the University of Texas Pan American at Edinburg.

Together, the eight institutions will make up the Southwest Teacher Network, which will develop policies and strategies based on the experiences in the pilot sites. The group will also publish a newsletter to disseminate information about the project.

The Tomas Rivera Center, based in Claremont, Calif., will review the work of the pilot sites and the teacher-education network and document issues of concern to be shared with policymakers at all levels.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 8

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