Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

High School Seniors' Perceptions of a Teaching Career

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

High School Seniors' Perceptions of a Teaching Career

Article excerpt

What do you want to be when you grow up? All too often Teacher! is not the response from minority high school students about to graduate. The increasing minority representation in schools prompts the need to encourage talented minority students to consider teaching as a career. Districts face a changing demography while education loses potential minority teachers to business and other fields. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) warned in 1990 that if a national intervention policy were not established to recruit and retain minority teachers, the percentage of minority teachers would continue to decline. The nation may face a situation in which minority educators are only 5% of the teaching force and minority students are over 33% of the student enrollment by 2000 (Hawley, 1989). Hawley wrote that it is as important for White children to see minority teachers in roles of authority and power as it is for minority children.

The Study

In Washoe County School District, Nevada, minority teachers make up approximately 5% of the teacher force in the district, whereas the student population is about 22% minority and growing steadily. The district recognizes the need to focus recruitment energies on local residents and, more precisely, on high school students. All 19 new minority teachers hired in Nevada in 1991-1992 were Nevada residents at the time of their application. We conducted this study to better understand high school seniors' perceptions of teaching as a career and determine if differences exist in student perceptions based on ethnicity and gender. In a fall 1994 survey of all high school senior students enrolled in regular and advanced placement American Government classes in nine comprehensive high schools of Washoe County, Nevada, we posed questions about what it would take for minority students to reconsider teaching. We based the data analyses on 1,537 usable surveys returned, or 91.7% of the total population.


Since the early 1980s, a number of researchers have investigated perceptions of high school students about a teaching career. Because the nation's largest minority population currently is Black and there has been a sharp decrease in the percentage of Black teachers during the past 20 years, much research has focused on Black high school students (Jordan, 1988; Page & Page,

1984; Page, Page, & Shelton, 1982). More recently, with the influx of large numbers of Hispanic students into the public schools, researchers have examined perceptions of Hispanic high school students about a teaching career (Mack & Jackson, 1993).

Roberson, Keith, and Page (1983) examined data from 58,270 subjects in a national longitudinal study of 1980 high school sophomores and seniors and found that students aspiring to teach are less concerned with financial rewards than are those who choose other professions.

In 1982, a survey of 1,478 Southeastern United States high school seniors determined that although most students viewed teaching as a good profession to enter, especially for women, 82.9% of the students perceived that salaries were a discouraging factor in selecting a teaching career; they also saw discipline problems and working conditions in a similar light (Page & Page, 1984). Page and Page reported that female and Black students perceived many factors in teaching in a more positive manner when they made comparisons on the basis of gender and race.

Mangieri and Kemper (1984) surveyed 4,349 academic juniors and seniors in six states. Of that number, 1,531 (35%) responded that they were either very interested or somewhat interested in teaching as a career. Approximately 55% more females than mates indicated an interest in a career in teaching. Females' reasons for choosing teaching varied as a function of gender in terms of job security, desire to work with children, and presence of a relative or a friend also a teacher. …

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