Project Seeks To Improve Urban Teacher Workforce

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A collaborative involving urban school systems, big-city colleges of education, and a nonprofit teacher-recruitment organization last week launched a national campaign to improve the urban teacher workforce.

The Council of the Great City Schools, the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education, and Recruiting New Teachers Inc. announced formation of the Urban Teacher Collaborative to improve the quality, diversity, and cultural sensitivity of teachers in urban schools.

The groups said the partnership will seek to coordinate the efforts of higher-education institutions that recruit and prepare urban teachers and the school districts that employ them.

"Teachers are the key to improving the quality of education we offer our children, and yet their recruitment and development too often are undersupported and approached in a piecemeal fashion,'' said Joseph A. Fernandez, the president of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents the 47 largest urban districts.

Philip Rusche, the dean of the University of Toledo's school of education and the president of the 50-member education school group, said the new collaborative was needed because "for far too long, the teacher education institutions and school districts in America's largest cities have pursued their objectives in relative isolation from each other.''

The project's focus will be on increasing the number of minority teachers in urban schools.

Although 80 percent of students in the nation's largest school systems are black, Hispanic, or Asian-American, sponsors noted, only 35 percent of urban teachers belong to a minority group. Urban schools also have critical shortages of teachers in bilingual and special education.

The collaborative hopes to bring new people into teaching through public-service announcements, toll-free information hot lines, and videos and handbooks on teaching careers. It also plans to encourage students to explore teaching and to provide career guidance to people interested in the field.

Financial support is being provided by the Annenberg, Prudential, and Tiger foundations, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.

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