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NEA Offers Tips to Recruit Minority Teachers

The NEA recently released an updated publication to help school districts attract more minority teachers. Their report spells out some of the problems schools face and offers some suggestions to overcome those obstacles.

Most faculties are overwhelmingly white, despite efforts by many school districts over the past ten years to actively attract minority teachers, according to the National Education Association (NEA). So the association is offering school districts some tips on how they might close the gap between increasing numbers of minority students and declining numbers of minority teachers.

The association recently released its revised and updated publication, National Directory of Successful Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Teachers, which includes numerous minority recruitment strategies plus state-by-state initiatives.

The NEA is concerned about how the shortage of minority teachers will affect and worsen urban education problems. The U.S. Department of Education predicts that during the early part of this century, only 5 percent of teachers will be minority teachers though the student minority population will be 40 percent.

The problem is also reaching outside urban areas and into suburban school districts, where large increases of minority immigration are occurring, said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association for Secondary School Principals. "It's a huge problem. Everyone is looking for minority teachers, and the problem is escalating," he told Education World. "It serves a purpose for all schools to reflect diversity. Life is not all white."

School districts are also having a difficult time hiring minority principals, partly because of aggressive recruiting by businesses that can offer two to three times the salary that schools can offer, Tirozzi said. "Principals tell me this country will have to awaken," he said. Unless the image of educators is raised and the pay made commensurate with the increasing difficulties and challenges of the job, the nation will find bodies to fill those teaching and leadership positions -- but not with quality educators, Tirozzi said.

The NEA offers many reasons for the minority teacher shortage. Following are just a few of the reasons detailed in the publication:

  • Some regions are experiencing a shortage of ethnic minority candidates.
  • Minority teachers suffer burnout and frustration caused by on-the-job hazards such as discipline problems, school violence, and the lack of colleague support.
  • Standardized tests often have cutoff scores that exclude minority students; and licensure tests screen out minorities disproportionately.
  • Minority teachers leave the field at higher rates than white teachers.
  • Salaries, prestige, and the social value of teachers are lower compared with those for other professions.


Several remedies to overcome recruitment and retention obstacles are listed in the NEA publication, including the development of a new program that would recruit teachers from existing school support personnel, said Sigun Eubanks, NEA's teacher recruitment specialist and one of the contributors to the report.

Research has found that programs that help paraeducators become teachers offer a tremendous opportunity to increase the supply of ethnic minority teachers, Eubanks said. This large pool of school employees -- such as teaching assistants, clerks, and others with or without baccalaureate degrees -- are largely minorities. They are generally committed to education and tend to stay for long periods in the profession, he said. Many are more mature individuals with extensive classroom experience, have roots in their communities, and are accustomed to working with challenging students.


Other NEA solutions include more aggressive recruitment activities and various financial and social supports, such as financial aid geared to minority education students and mentoring in the school setting.

Early recruiting -- getting high school students interested in teaching -- is another suggestion. The NEA recommends identifying students through career surveys, counseling, motivational workshops, summer college preparatory courses, and the promise of financial aid.

The publication also includes state-by-state strategies, which may offer school districts additional minority recruitment and retention ideas specific to their areas.

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