NEA and Teacher Recruitment: An Overview
NEA and Teacher Recruitment:
American public schools reflect diversity only in their student populations, not in their teaching force. Despite efforts by some school districts to hire minority teachers, most have faculties that are overwhelmingly white. Most districts still fail to hire minority teachers proportional to the increasing number of minority students in schools. This minority teacher shortage becomes more acute each year.
With 40 percent minority students and 5 percent minority teachers predicted for early in the next century, a critical shortage of education workers and role models may be at hand that could contribute to a worsening urban plight. Indeed, such a crisis could lead to a failure of all American students to learn the academic, personal, and social skills they need in the multicultural workplace of the future.
To avert such an outcome, the NEA has formulated a policy resolution on minority educators. It reads as follows:
The National Education Association believes that multiracial teaching staffs are essential to the operation of schools. The Association deplores the current trend of diminishing numbers of ethnic minority educators.
The Association urges local and state affiliates and appropriate governing bodies and agencies to work to increase the number of ethnic-minority teachers and administrators to a percentage at least equal to, but not limited to, the percentage of the ethnic minorities in the general population. The Association further urges U.S. Department of Defense Schools to actively recruit and hire ethnic-minority educators.
The Minority Teacher Dilemma
The minority teacher shortage presents a dilemma for education Associations across the country that want to help solve the problem. At a time when the demand for minority teachers is rising, the supply is falling. Despite many efforts, the number of minority teachers continues to decline. Reasons include:
- Demographically, a region, state, or school district contains few minorities locally available for its teacher pool.
- Burn out and frustration are caused by on-the-job hazards, such as poor working conditions, discipline problems, spreading school violence, and a lack of support from colleagues.
- Inadequate schooling leaves some minority students ill-prepared and unmotivated for higher education. Standardized tests often have cutoff scores that exclude minority students from higher education, teacher training, and teacher certification programs.
- Licensure tests screen out minorities disproportionately.
- Salaries are low for teachers compared to salaries for other professionals, which lowers the prestige and social value of a career in teaching for many potential minority teachers.
- Minority students find more career opportunities outside of teaching.
- The declining numbers of Black and Hispanic students majoring in education is steeper than the overall decline in education majors.
- Minority teachers leave teaching at higher rates than white teachers do.
Strategies for Increasing the Number of Ethnic Minority Teachers
NEA supports many different strategies for the identification, recruitment, and retention of minority teachers. These include:
- Early prospective teacher identification initiatives through secondary school surveys, counseling, motivational workshops, summer college preparatory courses, courses in educational theory and practice, and promise of financial aid.
- Aggressive recruitment activities, such as holding orientations, recruiting transfer students from two-year colleges, sponsoring future teachers clubs, organizing media campaigns in minority communities, and recruiting minorities to teaching from business and the military sectors.
- Financial aid, including fellowships, scholarships, and forgivable loans, targeted to minority students who intend to teach.
- Social and economic support, including improving test-taking skills and providing academic counseling and tutoring.
- Mentoring in the school setting.
NEA Student Program
The NEA Student Program promotes minority teacher recruitment by means of its Community Learning through America's SchoolS (CLASS) Program. Registered with the NEA Student Program, all CLASS projects are locally designed and cooperatively offered by NEA student locals, NEA K-12 or higher education affiliates, or NEA-Retired members.
NEA Recruitment and Retention of Educators Program
NEA Teaching and Learning, with assistance from NEA Human and Civil Rights, coordinates NEA's Recruitment and Retention of Educators (RRE) Program, which is designed to meet the challenges posed by the growing teacher shortage in Americas public schools.
Among the issues targeted by the NEA Recruitment and Retention of Educators Program are ethnic minority teacher shortages; teacher shortages in various subject areas, such as math and science; teacher shortages related to gender, such as the proportionately low numbers of males in elementary education; and the retention of educators already in the teaching profession.
To deal with these issues, the RRE Program establishes and maintains key networks and collaborative activities with NEA affiliates and other organizations, conducts a national forum on the issue of educator recruitment and retention, collects and distributes information on recruitment and retention initiatives, and maintains a database with key NEA affiliates and national and community organizations. Through this program, financial assistance is provided to NEA local affiliates to support their collaborative initiatives with school districts and community groups working to recruit prospective teachers and retain experienced educators.
Supports State and Local Projects
NEA's Teacher Quality department, through its Recruitment and Retention of Eduators Program, provides financial grants to local affiliates through their state associations. These grants support partnership activities with school districts and community organizations working to recruit prospective teachers, retain experienced educators, and encourage students (from the high school level to college) to become teachers.
But the RRE program is not only involved with initiatives that seek to deal with the teacher shortage issue quantitatively. To raise the level of teacher quality, the RRE Program provides training and counseling that help educators to meet the various professional standards and certification requirements of their states.
The RRE Program works to establish networks that bring together NEA affiliates, school districts, community organizations, and members of the business sector. Networks and coalitions with other organizations are integral to the success of the RRE Program. These networks have the power to reach into communities and target prospective teachers. They can also serve as conduits, facilitators, and valuable resources for association affiliates working to recruit and retain teachers.
Conducts a National Forum
Each year NEA's RRE Program conducts a national forum to acknowledge the cooperative efforts of NEA affiliates, local school districts, and community organizations grappling with the teacher shortage issue. Participating affiliates, network representatives, teacher educators, and experts are invited to attend, make presentations on innovative strategies, and share information on their progress and success.
Collects and Distributes Information
NEA's RRE Program serves as an information clearinghouse for NEA affiliates and organizations working in the area of recruiting and retaining educators by maintaining a database and collecting and distributing information materials. Included in the information distributed by the RRE Program are fact sheets, resource guides, program models, and a compendium of on-going projects for use by affiliates. The RRE Program also conducts workshops and provides training when necessary. Currently, the RRE Program is in the process of developing a computerized interactive system that will allow NEA affiliates involved in recruitment and retention efforts to share data, solve problems, and launch initiatives together.
What Can You Do?
NEA encourages members to work through their local and state Associations on minority teacher recruitment programs. NEA's Minority Teacher Recruitment Initiatives and the NEA Student Program's State by State Campus Guide identify some ongoing programs in which you can participate. If your Association is starting from scratch, you can help by—
- Organizing and pooling interests. Identify local organizations having an interest in minority teachers. Include community and ethnic minority groups, local teachers clubs, department of education offices, and targeted high schools and colleges.
- Conducting research. List the minority teacher recruitment programs and activities in your area and determine the percentage of minorities who teach in your area school system.
- Identifying a cadre of teachers. Prepare a roster of teachers to serve as mentors, recruiters, counselors, workshop facilitators, and assistants in functions sponsored by high school or college teacher recruitment programs.
- Recognizing minority teacher achievement. Profile or reward outstanding minority teachers or prospective minority teachers to acknowledge their service, increase their self-esteem, and build the professions prestige. In local Association activities, feature ethnic minority teacher recruitment information from this directory.