Original URL: http://regulus.azstarnet.com/hourlyupdate/story.php?id=40

State's diverse student population isn’t reflected in ranks of teachers
The Associated Press
July 16, 2003

PHOENIX — Although Arizona’s schools have a diverse student population, minority representation among teachers is scarce.

Critics say that lack of diversity is contributing to gaps in achievement among student populations.

Others argue that the skills and qualifications of a teacher are what’s most important.

“The question is not the ethnicity of the teacher. But how good is the teacher,” said Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne.

“My job is to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in a big way. If you tell me the ethnicity of a teacher, you haven’t told me anything meaningful,” Horne said.

Although minorities account for almost half of the state’s public school students, only 16 percent of Arizona teachers are minorities. Maricopa County’s numbers are similar, according to Department of Education statistics.

Across the state and Maricopa county, white women comprise two-thirds of teachers.

Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association, agrees with Horne and said it’s not a teacher’s skin color but rather their cultural sensitivity which embraces and encourages students of all backgrounds.

She acknowledges that there is no hard data to prove her point. “It’s like the notion that parental involvement improves achievement. Everyone in the world knows that, but it’s just hard to quantify,” Kotterman said.

Kotterman also points out that educational groups across the country have launched numerous programs aimed at recruiting and keeping minority teachers.

“People know it’s been getting worse, not better,” she said.

With a greater number of minority teachers, students “might want to emulate them,” said James Muqoz, a fifth-grade teacher at San Marcos Elementary School in Chandler.

Hispanics make up 35 percent of the student population in both Arizona and Maricopa County. But Hispanics comprise only 10 percent of those teachers.

Despite recruitment efforts, the National Education Association points to several factors for the nation’s low number of minority teachers. Teachers earn lower salaries than those of other professions which require similarly high levels of training and education.

In addition, inadequate schooling leaves some minority students ill-prepared and unmotivated for college; a requirement to become a certified teacher.

“Too many still don’t graduate from high school,” said Muqoz, whose mother never finished junior high school.

“Many need to work, to go ahead and provide for their family, and they can’t afford to continue their education.”


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