Many new teachers need help adjusting to the growing diversity of today’s public schools, according to a survey report from the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality and Public Agenda.
Most first-year educators feel well prepared in areas like direct instruction and classroom management, the report found, but say they were ill-equipped to deal with the ethnic and racial diversity and special learning needs of children in their classrooms.
While most teachers say they were trained in teaching an ethnically diverse student body, fewer than 4 in 10 say that their training helps them a lot in the classroom.
Was how to teach an ethnically diverse student body covered in your classroom?
How much did this training help?*
*Asked of those who said it was covered.
SOURCE: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality and Public Agenda.
Nor is it a matter of not having had any training in such areas. The report, based on interviews with 641 first-year teachers, found that although 76 percent had received instruction in teaching ethnically diverse students, only 39 percent said that the training significantly helped them in the classroom. Findings were similar for teaching special-needs children. Nearly 82 percent of the new teachers were taught to work with children with special-needs, but only 47 percent said the training helped “a lot.”
And while ethnic diversity is often associated with low-income urban schools, new teachers in high-needs schools (47 percent) were actually less likely to complain about inadequate diversity preparation than those (32 percent) in affluent communities.
Given a list of proposals to improve teacher quality, the teachers ranked two items significantly ahead of the others: reducing class sizes and training in adapting instruction to meet the needs of a diverse classroom.
This chart shows regional changes in student race/ethnicity from 1986-2000.
SOURCE: The National Center for Education Statistics
The percentage of racial/ethnic minority students in public schools grew from 22 percent in 1972 to 43 percent in 2006, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The change was primarily due to the increase in the proportion of Hispanic students.
A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 2008 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook