Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Minority teachers' importance emphasized by U.S. education secretary

This is an excellent message from Sec. Duncan. What should also be noted is that while Latina/os only make up less than 7% of all teachers nationally, similar findings on their impact are found. For instance, just as was mentioned here in this article, Latina/o teachers are more likely to teach in high-needs schools and have higher retention rates than their white peers in these same schools. You can check out the work of Professor Ana Maria Villegas for more on these figures.

There is a slew of other benefits that accompany these teachers and is the basis for the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy (NLERAP) project's Teacher Education Institutes (TEI) initiative (which the Ford Foundation has provided financial support for).


By Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune
May 08, 2010

Quinton Jones, a Houston teacher, told U.S. Education Department Secretary Arne Duncan that he had entered college "strongly against" teaching as a profession.

"That's a common theme," Duncan said, as he moderated a Friday roundtable of young African-American and Latino teachers at the Children's Defense Fund offices in New Orleans with Marian Wright Edelman, the iconic advocate who began the organization in 1973.

All of the teachers at Friday's roundtable were inspired by the Children's Defense Fund's Freedom Schools: after-school and summer programs in 75 cities that are rooted in the civil-rights movement and focused on holistic, socially aware education.

Duncan said that black teachers currently make up about 8 percent of the nation's total. To increase that, he wanted each teacher to tell him how they felt about the profession.

"We always had teachers in the African-American community," said Franceria Moore, a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge. "And it was a very prestigious position."

But today, as a black woman living in a country with a black president, she has many other options. "The sky's the limit," she said. "So why would I limit myself to being just a teacher?"

Jones said that, growing up in Houston, it was clear that his teachers weren't paid well, because he saw the cars that his teachers drove and the neighborhoods where they lived. Another young man said that his friends "laughed in my face" when he raised the idea of teaching: they couldn't believe he'd spend four years amassing $50,000 in school loans for a job that might pay $30,000 a year, he said.

As Duncan gives the commencement address today at Xavier University, he is expected to ask the student body and their families to consider a career in teaching. It's become a theme for Duncan this year.

In February, Duncan told leaders of historically black colleges and universities that "we have far too few teachers of color. Only 2 percent, one in 50 teachers today are African-American males. Something is fundamentally wrong with that picture."

Although he didn't spell it out on Friday, Duncan's campaign to recruit more black teachers may be driven by research that found improved test scores for black students who spend at least a year with a black teacher. In past speeches he's mentioned that black teachers are more likely than their white peers to want to work in high-poverty, high-needs schools, the front line for closing what he calls the nation's "insidious achievement gap" between white and black students. And he cited data showing that during the next three to five years, the nation could lose a third of its veteran teachers, as baby boomers reach retirement age.

But Duncan's motivations also seem driven by more anecdotal evidence, such as what he heard from the young teachers.

"If we're not in the classroom, we're trusting others to educate our children," said La'Mont Geddis, a school principal in Washington, D.C.

"As black males, we have a huge impact on our students. They gravitate to us," said Brandon Corley, a Philadelphia math teacher.

"I'm struck how exposure to Freedom Schools changed your life. It's staggering," said Duncan, who sat at the head table with Edelman and a line of local officials: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Recovery School District head Paul Vallas, Louisiana's education Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Xavier President Norman Francis and U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans.

Afterward, the young teachers showed off their work, through the songs and chants of 50 Freedom School students who attend after-school sessions in the North Broad Street building.

Together, Edelman and Duncan read the children "The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss. The children's classic is about a little boy who planted a carrot seed and, despite his family's skepticism, cares for it until it comes up, "just as the little boy had known it would."

"Don't let anybody tell you something can't be done," Edelman told the children.

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