Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Diversity Factor

In Boston's public schools, top-level administrators are worried that they haven't been hiring a teacher corps with enough "diversity:"
City school officials have made no headway in their efforts to hire a more diverse group of teachers, but the district has recruited more minority principals during Thomas Payzant's 10 years as superintendent.

Nearly half of Boston's 58,600 students are black, but only a quarter of the teachers are black, the same proportion as when Payzant took office in 1995, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

Hispanics, the city's fastest growing ethnic group, make up 33 percent of the student body but just 9 percent of the 5,246 teachers. Asians comprise 9 percent of Boston's students, while 5 percent of the teachers are Asian.

Payzant, who plans to retire in June, has been limited by union contractual obligations in his efforts to diversify the teacher work force. But he has more freedom to replace principals, and efforts to hire minority administrators have been far more successful.

Payzant has replaced 75 percent of the principals during his tenure and blacks now make up nearly half of the 148 principals, a 58 percent increase since 1995; Hispanics represent 16 percent, a 64 percent rise.

"It's important for students to see that people who have such an impact on their lives look like them, sound like them, and have similar life experiences," said Joy Oliver, a black principal at the Higginson Elementary School in Roxbury. "I tell my students all the time, 'I grew up in this neighborhood. I played in this school yard. And no matter what anybody else told me, I knew I could make a success out of my life.'"

Barbara McGann, the assistant superintendent for personnel, said too few minorities are being trained to become teachers. White women make up more than 80 percent of students in education schools around the country.
Administrators cite the need to have "positive role models" for students as the reasoning behind the need to increase the percentage of teachers from minority groups.
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