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Calif. Urged To Step Up Training of Minority Teachers

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California faces an "urgent need'' to recruit and train more teachers from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the teaching force, according to a report by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

In six years, 65 percent of schoolchildren in the state will be Latino, black, Asian, or Native American, notes the commission, a state panel that oversees teacher-licensing issues. Currently, only 18 percent of California's teachers are members of those groups.

"All our children need to see that skill in teaching does not reside in a particular cultural or ethnic group,'' the report asserts.

It also argues that teachers are less likely to classify students who are members of the same racial or ethnic group as handicapped, more likely to identify them as gifted, and less likely to have serious discipline problems with them.

'A Continuous Thread'

Projections for California's future teaching force, the report warns, indicate that the state is likely to experience little increase in diversity. In 1990, 11 percent of teacher candidates enrolled in the state's colleges and universities were Latino, while just 5 percent were black.

To become teachers, the report notes, students need to major in the subject they will teach. The low percentages of Latino, black, and Native American graduates in core academic majors severely limits the pool of prospective teachers.

Asian-American college graduates, significant numbers of whom earn mathematics and science degrees, are a promising source of teachers, the study suggests. But it adds that without vigorous recruitment, few are likely to become teachers.

The fact that many students drop out of high school or do not take college-preparatory coursework further hampers efforts to recruit a diverse teaching force, the report says. Once in college, moreover, students from underrepresented groups--with the exception of Asians--tend to drop out more often than do white students.

Despite the gloomy picture, the report points to several state programs that it says have successfully supported students of color. The programs include financial assistance, personal support and counseling, alternative approaches for mature candidates, and future-educator clubs to interest young people in teaching.

"Teacher preparation needs to stretch with a continuous thread from junior high through community colleges to four-year colleges,'' the report says.

Recruitment Centers Urged

The report includes a series of "working recommendations'' for addressing the problem, while noting that the proposals might be modified in the future. They include:

  • Establishing two or three teacher-recruitment centers, modeled after a South Carolina program, in certain parts of California. The centers could create networks among people working with paraprofessionals, mature career-changers, and high school students, and seek seed money for innovative approaches.
  • Creating a planning and oversight panel to develop and coordinate policies and practices for the recruitment centers. The panel would be formed by the credentialing commission.
  • Establishing compatible data-collection procedures for the state's K-12, community-college, and four-year-college systems to support long-term planning.
  • Continuing support for several teacher-diversity programs at campuses of the California State University system.
  • Providing financial support for programs that recruit paraprofessionals into teaching.
  • Supporting alternative programs for mature and career-changing teacher candidates.
  • Supporting the development of future-educator clubs to encourage young people with academic talent to consider careers in teaching.

Despite their promise, the report says, "the current isolation among these clubs, with little financial support for most of them, is reducing their effectiveness as a statewide force.''

Copies of the executive summary of the report are available at no charge from John McLevie, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, Calif. 95814-7000; (916) 327-2968.

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