Archive for Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Bell: Lawrence schools seeking diversity in faculty recruiting

November 13, 2012

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Lawrence school superintendent Rick Doll and school board president Vanessa Sanburn stopped by the News Center for an informal conversation with our editorial staff.

It's something they try to do at least once a year to talk about some broad, over-arching topics like the board's goals, long-range planning and whatever else comes to mind. For someone like me who's still new to the district, and the Lawrence school reporting beat, it was an invaluable opportunity to hear about some of the big-picture issues the district is grappling with.

One in particular came up in conversation that is certainly not unique to Lawrence, or the state of Kansas: the need to recruit more people of color into classroom teaching positions.

According to state figures, ethnic minorities make up about one-third of the student population in Kansas. But according to the most recent data available, they make up only about 5 percent of all certified personnel in public schools. That includes both teachers and administrators.

The student population in Lawrence is only slightly less diverse than the state as a whole: 70.5 percent white, compared to 67.4 percent statewide.

Information about the diversity of the Lawrence faculty wasn't immediately available. But suffice it to say that district officials know they need to do better.

This isn't about diversity for the sake of diversity. There are real educational advantages to having a faculty that looks like the community it serves.

The National Education Association is urging schools throughout the country to increase minority hiring, arguing that students benefit from have teachers, "who look like them, who share similar cultural experiences, and who can serve as role models demonstrating that education and achievement are things to be respected."

One national study in 2004 found evidence that a diverse faculty is linked to narrowing achievement gaps between white and minority students.

Superintendent Doll, however, notes that it's hard to recruit minority teachers from the graduating classes at Kansas schools of education, which is by far the single largest source of new teachers in Kansas public schools.

At one recent job fair, he said, there were only a handful of recent education school graduates who were non-white, and they were immediately swooped upon by every district there because they're all trying to increase minority hiring.

It would be easy to say that schools of education in Kansas need to do a better job of recruiting more minority students to pursue teaching as a career. They do, but that's only part of the story.

They're also challenged with recruiting enough people into the profession, period.

This is another subject that is often talked about in policy-making circles, but which often doesn't get enough public attention: the impending teacher shortage in Kansas that could reach crisis proportions within a few years.

The basic problem is that too many baby-boom generation teachers are getting close to retirement age, and there aren't enough new teachers coming through the pipeline to replace them.

Combine that with the fact that a large percentage of new teachers end up leaving the profession in their first three years, and you have the makings of a serious problem.

Ironically, the recent economic downturn bought Kansas some time, state officials have said. The lack of jobs in other sectors of the economy probably delayed many veteran teachers' plans for early retirement.

But that's not a sustainable strategy for keeping teachers in the classroom.

The biggest issue that affects recruiting, officials at all levels say, is the pay. Teachers in Kansas, whether they have a bachelor's or a master's degree, earn only about 70 percent of what people with comparable degrees earn in other professions, according to a 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that focuses its research on issues affecting low- and middle-income workers.

That's the seventh-largest wage disparity in the nation. The average wages of teachers here ranks 48th in the nation.

The only way to solve that is with money, which has been in rather short supply for public schools of late.

• Do you have news about local schools you'd like to share with the community? Call me at 832-7259, or email me at phancock@ljworld.com.

Comments

DRsmith 2 years, 5 months ago

Why is that important again? Bottom line is to get well qualified teachers that do a good job no matter what their race. Good Lord.

John Kyle 2 years, 5 months ago

I guess you didn't learn to read from your teacher:

"The National Education Association is urging schools throughout the country to increase minority hiring, arguing that students benefit from have teachers, "who look like them, who share similar cultural experiences, and who can serve as role models demonstrating that education and achievement are things to be respected."

One national study in 2004 found evidence that a diverse faculty is linked to narrowing achievement gaps between white and minority students."

DRsmith 2 years, 5 months ago

So based on that logic, we can expect white kids to start faultering? Great idea.

DRsmith 2 years, 5 months ago

Interesting. I guess I missed the part where it said only children of color benefit from having teachers who look like them....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

Like hiring a few minority teachers will mean the white teachers are no longer greatly in the majority.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 5 months ago

You know what you call giving someone a job based on their race?

Blatant Racism!!

geekin_topekan 2 years, 5 months ago

PR, the reversal of two hundred years of blatant exclusionary tactics is not racism, it is doing what your forefathers were unable to do, create an equal playing field in America. As long as you keep your grip on ethnocentric value, you will feel a pinch.

Your guy lost, get over it.

DRsmith 2 years, 5 months ago

I voted for Obama and I don't care if my Daughter's teachers are all black, Asian or white, as long as she is learning.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 5 months ago

I looked at your avatar (it's very small and my eyes are not what they used to be) and wondered if that car is a Ford. Many of my ethnicity still won't buy a Ford because of Henry Ford's very open and public anti-semitism. He belonged to a club that had for it's front sign the banner "No Jews Or Dogs Allowed". Yet some of the very first quotas in this country were specifically designed to keep Jews out of the Ivy League schools because they were over-represented. Despite the lack of a equal playing field, they overachieved. Of course, that overachievement is not limited to Jews. Anyone ever seen an Asian or two on just about any campus in this country, despite exclusionary laws.

The playing field will never be level. Never. That's contrary to human nature. We can continue to give preferred status to members of certain ethnicities. Another solution might be to look to those who overachieved and emulate them. If the mantra is to be "We Shall Overcome", look to those who already have.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for admitting you are a racist. Justify it all you like...racism is racism. At least you're honest about being no better than the racist ilk that excluded them for the last 200 years. You are exactly like them. My guy? What are you talking about?

KSManimal 2 years, 5 months ago

The school district isn't setting specific numerical targets, so your link to B v. R isn't relevant.

What the district wants to do is attract more diversity into their ranks of teachers, so that their teaching staff more closely represents make-up of the community - a laudable goal, since research is clear that students do better with teachers that look like them.

Last time I checked, roughly half the community - thus half the students - are male. I wonder what % of the elelmentary teachers are male? ...and we shake our heads wondering why our male students are struggling and falling behind their female peers...

It all comes down to money: if you want to attract a diversity of applicants, and be able to pick and choose which ones to hire; you have to make your offer competitive not only with other school districts but also with other professions. Otherwise, you get to hire "the" applicant - if you're lucky enough to have one.

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