Teaching: Unfolds Numerous Career Options for African-American College Graduates
Brown, Gilbert, Diversity Employers
Changing demographic patterns contribute to African-American college graduates being strategically positioned to rapidly enter the K-12 teaching profession in the next millennium. Veteran teachers (25-30 years of instructional experience) will be retiring from the teaching profession in greater numbers in the next millennium. Disproportionately, African-American teachers will be leaving the teaching profession. What factors are driving this trend? Many of the African-American teachers entered the profession during an era when African-American graduates had fewer career options than their counterparts today. Graduates discovered career options as K-12 teachers in de facto (in reality) and de jure (by law) school systems. Also some graduates thought of teaching as a natural career to position them for collaborating with young people and using education as a social escalator to improve their life stations. Consequently, the combined impact of the two factors contributes to school districts facing major challenges trying to recruit and retain outstanding African-American educators.
Next, the changing K-12 student demographics from predominately white to more students of color (Hispanics, Asians, and African Africans) contrast sharply with the increasing white female composition of the teaching profession. A homogenous teaching cadre can result in one voice shaping the curriculum and developing pedagogy (teaching styles) for an emerging, racially-diverse K-12 student population. Expanding the pool of African-American (females and males) teachers will include more voices into shaping the curriculum and incorporating holistic pedagogical styles for a racially-diverse student population.
For those of you graduating with degrees in education and those without education degrees interested in teaching, the future is promising. Because of current teachers' retirements, an increasing student population and a demand for teachers in specialized areas, some foresee a national shortage of teachers in the next few years. Teachers of color will be in particular demand because of the changing racial and ethnic demographics of the country. "By employing highly successful and capable people of color, schools destroy prejudicial attitudes on the part of white students and parents and establish a standard to which African-American students can aspire," said Dr. H. Douglas Williams, superintendent of Schools of Perry Township in central Indiana. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the United States will need 20% more K-elementary schoolteachers and 5% more secondary education schoolteachers by the year 2005. This increase comes at a time when more African-American students and fewer white students are entering elementary school. What does this increase mean for you now? It means you should schedule an appointment with your advisor and make sure you are on track for graduation with the type of license or certificate you expect to receive, or it means you should consider a career in the teaching profession. "We need more teachers of color because of their passion for students of color. Because educators of color often possess a special passion for African-American students, they provide a desperately needed support base in schools for those students. In addition, when their perspective is shared with white educators, it enables those white educators to become more effective in working with African-American students," Dr. Williams said. This article will help you prepare for life after graduation, and it will also make you think about why more people of color must consider careers in teaching.
Why is it important for you to clarify the type of license or certificate you will have when you graduate? The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has recently distinguished licensure and certification. "Educators argue that states license (e.g. architects, nurses, etc.) and that specialized boards in the respective fields certify. NBPTS has accepted that distinction and is 'certifying' experienced teachers who meet high and rigorous standards," according to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification manual. This area is one of particular concern as certain subjects require a specialized degree. For example, an Iowa State University study shows an increasing number of math and science teachers leaving the profession for private-sectors jobs. If you are interested in teaching math or science at the high school level, you may be unable to do so with a degree from a School of Education; because some programs require a degree from a School of Science (for example) and a teaching certificate from the School of Education. Not only are math and science subject areas of growth, but so is bilingual education. Because of the changing demographics of the United States, more people are speaking English as a second language - specifically in California, Florida, Southwestern states and the Pacific Northwest. If you wish to increase your marketability after graduation, get a Foreign Language minor in your program. Another subject area of growth is computer science. Computer endorsements or a minor in computer science may be the keys to landing that first job. One last area to mention that is showing growth is special education. National legislation calling for inclusion has resulted in more opportunities for teachers with special education certificates or licenses.
Another way to increase your marketability after graduation is to participate in international and cultural programs aimed at expanding your sensitivity to and knowledge of the issues surrounding the children you will be teaching. "Our schools reflect worldwide diversity as we approach the year 2000 and beyond. Students who understand social, cultural, and institutional diversity are best prepared to serve the needs of diverse and new immigrant children," said Kate Conway-Turner, interim associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and professor at the University of Delaware. "The University of Delaware International Programs have developed specific programs that fit the needs of teacher education candidates. These programs (like the upcoming Costa Rica and South Africa programs) allow students an in-depth experience in a diverse culture and opportunities to work within their schools. These programs provide both course work and internship opportunities for students. Across the country, many other programs that provide similar international programs exist. Teacher education candidates armed with these experiences are better prepared to handle the international diversity that is found within many of our schools," she said.
Just how much do schoolteachers make right out of college? The American Federation of Teachers does an annual survey to help school districts develop salary comparisons and formulate policy. In 1996-1997, the AFT found the average starting salary for beginning teachers was $25,012 with South Dakota being the lowest paying state and Alaska being the highest. In 1997-1998, the average starting salary for beginning teachers was just above $26,000. It is important to note that teacher salaries have been growing over the rate of inflation for the last 20 years. This growth has taken place when other salaries have just kept up or fallen below inflation rates. The following is a list of some top cities based on factors like job opportunities and crime rate that may be of interest to you and their average starting salary (1996-1997 statistics):
Chicago, IL $29,604 Detroit, MI $30,537 Milwaukee, WI $24,684 Seattle, WA $22,347 Washington, D. C. $25,937 Kansas City, MO $23,539 Charlotte, NC $23,599 Atlanta, GA $29,544 Minneapolis, MN $25,410 Cleveland, OH $26,765 Baltimore, MD $24,684 Memphis, TN $27,997 San Francisco, CA $28,297 Philadelphia, PA $28,135
You can find other information regarding salary at AFT's website: http://www.aft.org//index.htm
As you get closer to graduation, you will need to ask yourself where you would like to work and whether you are willing to relocate. Not only is the location of your school tied to the salary you will receive, but so is the type of institution. The United States Department of Education has been tracking school enrollments by type and geographical location and predicts constant growth in the number of children attending school at least until the year 2007. Over the next 10 years, public school enrollment will increase approximately 4.1% while private school enrollment will increase approximately 3.4%. There are certain geographical areas of the country that will see enrollment increases as well. States like California and Georgia with growing cities and suburbs will most likely see the greatest increase, while Maine, Nebraska and Oklahoma may see a decrease in enrollment. Hawaii will see a shortage of teachers. In general, the West and the South will see the biggest demand for schoolteachers over the next few years. For different reasons, inner-city schools and schools in rural areas will also need teachers. Usually, schools in these areas have a difficult time attracting qualified teachers because of the fact they are unable to pay people as well as their suburban counterparts and because of the perceived working conditions. Essence published an article in the June 1, 1998 edition that may interest you. The article cited the top 10 cities for Black families rated on the factors of job opportunities and availability of cultural institutions. Some of the cities include Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, MI, Cleveland, OH and Baltimore, MD.
Professional Development Schools (schools with partnerships between a university and an elementary or secondary school) are an option if after you have graduated from college you yet want more classroom experience before you look for your first job. These schools offer a one to two-year program that allows you to practice what you've learned in college under professional guidance. Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis offers a program called Learning to Teach/Teaching to Learn. When students enter this program, they enter with 19-29 other students and move through the curriculum together as a group. This group movement means students have a built-in support system and never compete with each other for spaces in classes. Another route to look into if you would like to teach but did not graduate from a School of Education is the alternate teacher certification program. This program allows you to receive certification through on-the-job training and in-services under the supervision of a mentor teacher. For more information about this program and its requirements, contact the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, Executive Director, Dr. Donald Hair, 3600 Whitman Avenue North, Suite 105, Seattle, WA 98103, (206) 547-0437.
Have you ever thought about why it is important for people of color to become teachers? With increasing Hispanic, Asian-American, and African-American populations in the United States, young minority children must have role models in the schools who make them valued. "We also need to target Hispanic and Asian students as prospective teachers...to bring more diversity into the field of teaching. Teaching needs to become more attractive to people of color. If African Americans do not feel valued in education, they won't pursue the profession. If a greater percentage of Hispanics teach, and if more Asian populations teach, African Americans will also look more favorably on teaching and follow their lead," said Professor Howard Hill, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at South Carolina State University. The percentage of Hispanic children in public elementary and secondary schools has increased from 9.9% in 1986 to 13.5% in 1995; the percentage of Asian children has increased from 2.8% to 3.7%; the percentage of African-American children has increased from 16.1% to 16.8%; the percentage of white children has decreased from 70.4% to 64.8%. All of this has occurred while the percentage of white teachers has increased from 89.6% to 90.7%, and the percentage of Black or "Other" teachers has decreased from 8.0% to 7.3% and 5.2% to 2.0% respectively. "Now might be the time for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to revitalize teacher education on their campuses. HBCUs need to take the lead and establish significant pipelines for the preparation of teachers. College administrators should make education a target and possibly emphasize this profession over some of the more attractive professions such as engineering, pre-law, computer science and mathematics," Hill said. He continues, "There are a lot of African Americans interested in teaching who do not have teaching degrees. To increase the number of minority teachers, we need to encourage those who do not have a teaching license or certificate to go back and get their master of arts in teaching degree so they can teach. And for freshman students, we need to invite them to seminars on education so they can better understand and embrace the importance of teaching as a profession. We must carry out this timely commitment."
Dr. Gilbert Brown is the assistant dean and director of Student Services for the School of Education at Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI). He was assisted in research by Joelle Andrew, a graduate student.…
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Publication information: Article title: Teaching: Unfolds Numerous Career Options for African-American College Graduates. Contributors: Brown, Gilbert - Author. Magazine title: Diversity Employers. Volume: 29. Issue: 2 Publication date: February 1999. Page number: 120+. © 1998 IMDiversity, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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