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Urban Districts Pressed To Find Teachers, Survey Says

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Urban school districts suffer from a shortage of teachers in nearly every subject area and are scrambling to meet their staffing needs, a survey has found.

More than two-thirds of the 39 districts surveyed had immediate needs for special education, science, and math teachers, according to the report released last week by the Urban Teacher Collaborative, an umbrella organization of three education groups.

And 77 percent of the districts have dealt with those and other shortages by hiring noncertified teachers, the organization said.

"This isn't an indictment of those districts," said David Haselkorn, the president of Recruiting New Teachers Inc., a Belmont, Mass.-based nonprofit group that prepared the survey. "This is a wake-up call on the need for concerted state and federal action to meet those challenges."

Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, agreed. "This is a problem where some help needs to come from the outside, but there's no single source or strategy that's going to be able to address the problem by itself."

Along with Recruiting New Teachers and the Council of the Great City Schools, the collaborative includes the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education.

For the study, surveys were mailed last year to personnel administrators and superintendents in the country's 47 largest urban districts and to 50 colleges of education located in those cities. The surveys sought information on demographics of students and teachers and about programs for recruiting prospective teachers.

The study found that administrators in the big-city districts need more information and strategies to recruit a qualified and diverse teaching staff. And the percentage of minority students at city-based colleges of education is lower than the percentages of both minority teachers and students at the schools they serve, the survey showed.

Filling Classrooms

Mr. Haselkorn said many local teacher-recruitment initiatives, although innovative, lack cohesion. "What we can do is develop stronger collaboration between districts and colleges, and develop more coherent and coordinated corridors into urban teaching."

Recruiting New Teachers plans to launch a public service advertising campaign in many cities in the next few weeks to encourage prospective teachers to call a toll-free number for information.

Meanwhile, the districts that participated in the survey are struggling to fill their classrooms with teachers for this fall.

Like many districts, the Fresno, Calif., schools are looking for minority and bilingual teachers. Although 75 percent of its 78,000 students are members of minority groups, only 21.5 percent of its teachers belong to minorities and only 2 percent are bilingual.

Bernice Hardee, the district's operations manager for human resources, said administrators there are working with local universities to encourage paraprofessionals to work toward teaching degrees. "The best thing would be to recruit people who are already working in the district. It's to their benefit and to our benefit," she said.

For More Information:

Copies of "The Urban Teacher Challenge" are available for $5 each from Recruiting New Teachers Inc., 385 Concord Ave., Belmont, Mass. 02178; (617) 489-6000.

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