Wanted: Minority Teachers

By Alex Farmer & Andrew Davis 

“We have more in common than the things that separate us,” Mr. Ray Sims, health teacher, said.

Most say that there isn’t much racial inequality anymore – and they are right, for the most part – but there is still a shortage of minority teachers in schools across the nation, and at Snider.

According to the Snider High School website, there are 78 teachers at Snider, and 8% are minority teachers. This percentage is low in comparison to the 17% of teachers in the nation who are minority. Of the 145 Snider staff members, 14%, including teaching assistants, are minority, with 12% of the staff being African-American.

Four Hispanic staff members are world language teachers. There are no Asian teachers or staff members at Snider. Of the 17 African American staff members at Snider, only two are teachers.

According to The Atlantic, a study conducted by the Albert Shanker Institute determined that the number of minority students in the nation is increasing at a much higher rate than the number of minority teachers. From 1988 to 2012, the number of minority students in the nation increased 17%, while the number of minority teachers increased by only 4.9%.

According to principal Ms. Nicole Chisley, education is starting to become an unpopular career choice. Also, Chisley said, there are not many minorities entering college. Also, those who do finish college usually choose careers with higher pay and greater prestige, according to The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

According to Kate Walsh, president of the NCTQ, the main reason for the lack of minority teachers is simply the lack of minorities applying for the job.

“There just aren’t as many qualified African-American graduates who are interested in teaching as we would like,” Walsh said. “Talented minority candidates, and even white candidates, often eschew teaching as a major.”

The data from the Shanker study also show the lack of minority teachers from another perspective – minority teachers are leaving the profession at a higher rate than white teachers. Since 1994, the yearly turnover rate for minority teachers has been higher than the rate for white teachers.

According to the study, the most commonly cited reasons for minorities leaving the profession are that they don’t feel like they have a voice in the classroom, and they feel that they lack influence in the classroom.

Why should schools have more minority teachers? Minority students are usually more motivated to work in classes led by a minority teacher, according to US News. Typically, an African-American student would tend to get along well with an African-American teacher.

“More minority teachers would be good, because all the different cultures could interact with each other. It would be great if we could really bring every society together,” Jay Underwood, freshman, said.

Also, surveys show that minority teachers tend to have higher expectations for minority students, which could motivate minority students to work harder.

How can schools recruit more minority teachers? One suggestion made by the Shanker study to the U.S. Department of Education and state departments is to invest heavily in high-quality teaching programs at colleges with high percentages of enrolled minorities.

The study, and Chisley, are of the opinion that state and national education departments and colleges need to work together to increase the number of minority teachers.

“Human Resources goes to colleges, literally, and recruits,” Chisley said. “Some colleges have something called ‘minority recruitment’ days because most districts need more minorities on their staff, and that will give districts more opportunities to recruit minority teachers and staff.”

On the other hand, the opinion on minority teachers is subjective. Some people believe the race of the teacher doesn’t matter.

“Kids don’t look at teachers and say ‘Oh they’re a minority. I’m going to like them better, I’m going to learn from them,'” said Ms. Marisol Martinez, Snider Spanish teacher. “They’re a teacher. It doesn’t matter what race, they’re just a teacher.”

Sophomore Sanda Win shares Marintez’s viewpoint.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re the same race as me,”  Win, said. “They’re still teachers, so I don’t think it makes a difference.”

Over the past few years, many studies have addressed the topic of minority representation in schools nationwide, both in the student and teacher population. The data show the minority teacher population is disproportional to the minority student population, but FWCS is attempting to recruit minority teachers to contribute to diversity in the classroom.

“What I like most about our school is our diversity,” Sims said. “I think every one of our students benefit from a diverse population.”

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