Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Who's Teaching Whom?

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Who's Teaching Whom?

Article excerpt

Nearly 75 percent of inner-city school teachers and 91 percent of urban school teachers are White, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Is there anything that can or should be done about the tremendous demographic mismatch between the public school teaching force and student population?

Do we really believe what the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy proclaimed nearly 25 years ago, when it said the nation cannot tolerate a future in which White and minority children are confronted with almost exclusively White authority figures in their schools?

For the first time in history, the majority of the nation's public school students are children of color. Today's public school student is more likely to be African-American, Hispanic/Latino or Asian than White and less likely to speak English as a first language.

In fact, 50 percent of English as a Second Language (ESL) students are American citizens. Spanish, too, isn't the only language ESL students are speaking--Chinese, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Vietnamese, Arabic and Somali are among the top 10 languages spoken in American schools. How this new American public school majority performs academically is critical to the nation's future.

There is a clear relationship between teacher quality, diversity and student success. Minority and poor students are 70 percent more likely than their White and affluent peers to have a teacher who is not certified in math, English, science and social studies teaching them these four core subjects. They are also more likely to have a teacher who does not have a college major or minor in the subject area being taught.

Perhaps worst of all, the nation's Black and poor students are the most likely to have a Teach for America teacher--one who has received only six weeks of training prior to being placed in the nation's poorest schools with the neediest students.

Beyond a pluralistic ideal, studies indicate that tremendous benefits accrue to African-American and Hispanic/Latino students who attend schools with high concentrations of African-American or Hispanic/Latino teachers. These students are less likely to be expelled or suspended; more likely to be recommended for gifted education; less likely to be misplaced in special education; and more likely to graduate high school in four years. …

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