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Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2003

U.S. teachers aren’t diverse, survey says

August 28, 2003

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— Know anyone having trouble finding a man? Add public school leaders to the list.

Only two out of 10 teachers in America's classrooms are men, the lowest figure in 40 years, according to a National Education Assn. survey. Just one in 10 teachers is a minority, another sign that teachers have far less diversity than the people they educate.

About half of students are male and almost 40 percent are minorities, according to government figures. The lopsided representation of whites and females in teaching is troubling, NEA President Reg Weaver said, because it denies students a range of role models.

So what makes teaching less attractive to men and minorities? A mix of factors, but mainly the fact that it's easier to earn more money with less stress in other fields, says the NEA, the nation's largest union with more than 2.7 million teachers and other members.

"It takes so many years to finally get a salary that is high enough to support a family," said Edward Kelley, a teacher at A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, N.C. A nationally board certified teacher with a master's degree, Kelley makes a salary of $65,000 in his 30th year.

"Young people are going to look at that and say, 'I want a house and a car. What's the fastest way to do it?' Teaching is not the way to do it, unfortunately," Kelley said.

The average contract salary for teachers in 2001 was $43,262.

Kelley, who spent years in Maine before starting in North Carolina this year, finds himself in a group with one of the smallest shares of men. Only 9 percent of elementary school teachers are men, and the southeast has the lowest share of male teachers, 14 percent.

The NEA report, the "Status of the American Public School Teacher," aims to help education groups shape their agendas and mold the country's image of teachers. Updated every five years, the report draws its latest findings from the 2000-01 school year.

The NEA and others are pursuing ways to improve diversity, such as trying to improve college access for minorities and encouraging classroom aides to get teacher certifications.

Male teachers made up about one-third of the teaching force in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but their numbers slid through the 1990s and hit the low of 21 percent in 2001.

Whites have accounted for about 90 percent of all teachers for the past three decades, including in 2001. Six percent of teachers were black, a number on the decline.

Five percent of teachers said they were Hispanic.

Teachers said they typically spent 50 hours a week on their duties and put up $443 of their own money to help students during the school year. Fifty-seven percent have at least a master's degree, and 77 percent took courses through their school districts during the year.

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