Monday, August 28, 2006

Bumper Crop

In terms of both numbers and diversity, more kids than ever before are enrolled in America's public schools writes Sam Dillon of The New York Times:
Some 55 million youngsters are enrolling for classes in the nation’s schools this fall, making this the largest group of students in America’s history and, in ethnic terms, the most dazzlingly diverse since waves of European immigrants washed through the public schools a century ago.

Millions of baby boomers and foreign-born parents are enrolling their children, sending a demographic bulge through the schools that is driving a surge in classroom construction.

It is also causing thousands of districts to hire additional qualified teachers at a time when the Bush administration is trying to increase teacher qualifications across the board. Many school systems have begun recruiting overseas for instructors in hard-to-staff subjects like special education and advanced math.

The rising enrollments are most obvious in districts like this one west of Washington, in Loudoun County, one of the nation’s fastest-growing school systems.

Thousands of government, technology and construction workers, many of them Hispanic, Asian and African-American, are streaming into new subdivisions within commuting distance of the Pentagon and the headquarters of America Online. They are transforming a school system that was once small and overwhelmingly white into one that is sprawling and increasingly cosmopolitan.

The Loudoun County Public Schools, where annual pay for starting teachers is $40,986, has hired almost all the 650 new teachers it needs to fill its classrooms when school begins on Sept. 5, scores of them through agencies that recruit teachers in foreign countries, the superintendent, Edgar B. Hatrick, said.

But some rapidly growing districts across the nation are having trouble. The Clark County School District in Las Vegas, for instance, where teachers’ starting salary is $33,000, has hired 2,000 teachers. But with classes scheduled to start Wednesday, the district was still looking for 400 others, mostly to teach special education and math, said Pat Nelson, a spokeswoman.

Most districts eventually find the teachers they need, but in extreme cases, some increase class sizes or call on substitutes until they hire a permanent teacher.

In projections published last year, the federal Department of Education said the nation’s elementary and secondary enrollments would grow, on average, by about 200,000 students annually, reaching 56.7 million in 2014. Demographers say the current bulge moving through the nation’s school systems owes to the children of the baby boom generation, which lasted from about 1946 to 1964, as well as to the children of immigrants. The enrollment trends would be uneven, regionally, with schools in the Northeast and Midwest losing students, on average, and those in the South and West growing, the department said.
There's much more to read in the whole thing.

I wonder where they are going to get the thousands of "highly qualified" teachers that they're going to need in order to serve all those kids?
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