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Too Few Teachers Are Trained To Address Problems Faced by Latinos

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The "mismatch'' between students and teachers in the Southwest demands a new strategy to increase the number of Latino teachers there and to improve the preparation of teachers to work with Latino students, a new report concludes.

The report by the Tomas Rivera Center, an Austin, Tex.-based institute headed by Henry G. Cisneros, the Secretary-designate of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, notes that poverty, racial prejudice, and language barriers foster low achievement among Latino students.

Yet, it states, few teachers in the region are adequately trained to address these problems in the classroom.

To address the issue, the report's authors, Raymond E. Castro and Yolanda Rodriguez Ingle of the center's Claremont, Calif., office, suggest that teacher education programs in the Southwest tap an alternate pool of candidates that includes more males and more minorities.

In addition, it says, prospective teachers should be given specialized training to deal with the severe economic, social, and psychological problems facing Latino students.

Charles Kamasaki, the vice president of policy for the National Council of La Raza, a Washington, D.C.-based Hispanic advocacy group, said the report "is right on the mark in terms of focusing on the individuals in the classroom who are most important.''

"Too much of the education reform movement is concerned with process--not on the teacher-student relationship,'' he said.

Higher Expectations

The recommendations for teacher education were among several papers prepared for a forum, held last week in Austin, on the needs of Latino students and teachers.

According to the report, one of the most fundamental needs for Latino students is the need to achieve a strong sense of self.

For many young Latinos, who lack support at home, the classroom is the one place for them to achieve, it says.

"Everything suggests that teachers have very low expectations for Latino students,'' Mr. Kamasaki said. "We ought to be able to prepare teachers to expect all of their students to learn.''

To improve that preparation, the center's report urges a number of changes in teacher education programs to help prospective teachers of Latino students.

For one thing, it says, potential teachers should be exposed to the classroom earlier in their training so they can better anticipate the challenges they will face.

In addition, it recommends that schools of education tap into a teacher-recruitment network created by the center. Launched in 1988, the Southwest Teacher Development Network is designed to increase the number of Latino teachers working in the region.

While more than half of all Latinos live in California and Texas, Latino teachers comprise only 7 percent and 15 percent of the teaching forces in those states, respectively.

By using the network, the report states, schools of education can "retool themselves for the task of changing teacher education.''

Copies of the report, "Reshaping Teacher Education in the Southwest,'' are available from the Tomas Rivera Center, 710 N. College Ave., Claremont, Calif. 91711; (909) 625-6607.

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