Teachers Column

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The need to increase the number of minority teachers was the subject of a meeting last month between Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos and an ad hoc group of national education leaders.

But the group, known as the Task Force on Minority Teachers, came away with no commitments from the Secretary to develop new programs or proposals to address the problem. Instead, Mr. Cavazos agreed to give a major speech on the subject this fall and to organize an invitational conference on the issue. He also said he would push to make it a topic of discussion at President Bush's upcoming education summit with governors.

The task force--a body that includes the presidents or executive directors of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National School Boards Association, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, among others--has been working since December on a strategy for recruiting more minority teachers. Members of the group had hoped Mr. Cavazos would embrace more of their proposals.

"I think the meeting fell short of what we had hoped for," said David Imig, executive director of aacte, "but certainly [Mr. Cavazos] conveyed an openness to the issues."

In an effort to carve out a role for state colleges and universities in the debate over reform in teacher education, a small group of presidents and education-school deans from those institutions have begun their own dialogue on the topic.

"The vast majority of new teachers are prepared in institutions like ours, yet those institutions have not been active in those reforms," said Thomas Switzer, dean of education at the University of Northern Iowa and an organizer of the effort. The other colleges represented in the informal group include the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, California State University at San Bernardino, Florida Atlantic University, Millersville State University, Western Kentucky University, and Ball State University.

Mr. Switzer said reform efforts so far have included large research universities, such as those that make up the Holmes Group. In the smaller state institutions represented by his group, he said, teacher-training programs are markedly different. And the group's conclusions, expected sometime next year, will reflect those differences.

An aggressive campaign by the Columbus, Ohio, public schools to recruit minority teachers has yielded encouraging results, officials there say.

Of the district's 235 new hires this fall, 102 are members of minority groups, according to Kwesi Kambon, assistant to Superintendent of Schools Ronald E. Etheridge.

Mr. Kambon said hiring more black teachers has been a top priority for the district, where 47 percent of the students and 22 percent of the teachers are members of minority groups.

To meet the school board's goal of hiring one-third of its teachers from minority groups, the district increased the number of recruiters sent to historically black colleges and universities. Columbus teachers who had graduated from those institutions also helped in recruiting.

Intensive personal contact with potential recruits made the difference for Columbus, Mr. Kambon said.

"A lot of districts say they want more black teachers, but aren't willing to free up the teachers to do it," he noted.

Mr. Kambon also credited the district's longstanding arrangement with local universities to provide free tuition for teachers studying for master's and doctoral degrees as a prime factor in luring minority teachers to Columbus.

Boyse F. Mosley, principal of Northwestern High School in Baltimore, has touched off a debate with the Baltimore Teachers Union over his proposal that the school adopt a faculty dress code.

Mr. Mosley said he made the suggestion because the Baltimore school system has instituted a dress code for students. The new code bars students from wearing fur coats, gold chains, jogging suits, and Spandex, in an attempt to curb robberies of expensively dressed students.

A committee of parents and school staff members is developing guidelines for the faculty dress code. Mr. Mosley has recommended that it include requiring male teachers to wear coats and ties, and female teachers to wear dresses, skirts, hose, and "appropriate shoes."

Far too many teachers do not dress professionally, he complained.

"I think that is one problem we have in education today--we have thrown out a number of values this nation was built on, and I think that has led to a decline in our educational standard," he said.

The teachers union has taken a dim view of the proposal, arguing the matter would best be dealt with on an individual basis.

"He's asking for women to wear heels and stockings and dresses," said Linda D. Prudente, a union spokesman. "Teachers are on their feet all day. Mr. Mosely has not worn heels, and probably doesn't know how uncomfortable they are."

The recommendations are expected to be presented at a faculty meeting next month.

--ab & dv

Vol. 09, Issue 04

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