U.S. public schools lack male, minority teachers NEA report bewails failure to recruit

July 07, 1992|By Stephanie Grace | Stephanie Grace,Los Angeles Times Staff writer David Michael Ettlin also contributed to this article.

As U.S. public school students have grown more racially diverse, their teachers have remained overwhelmingly white and female, according to a survey released yesterday by the nation's largest teachers union.

The survey by the Natonal Education Association found that 86.8 percent of public school teachers were white, roughly the same as 20 years ago. The survey found that 8 percent of teachers were black and 3 percent Hispanic, while all other minorities accounted for the remaining 2.2 percent.

Nearly three-fourths of public school teachers are women, and the percentage of male teachers is at its lowest point since the NEA first measured the female-male ratio in 1961, the NEA

reported.

In 1991, well under a third of all teachers -- 27.9 percent -- were male, and at the kindergarten to sixth-grade level, the figure was 12 percent, down from 13.8 percent in 1986 and 17.7 percent in 1981. Male teachers make up 43.8 percent of secondary school instructors, down from 56.8 percent in 1961.

The survey, conducted in the spring of 1991, was based on 1,354 responses to questionnaires distributed by mail. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

The failure to recruit more male and minority teachers, particularly for elementary schools, is "very disheartening," NEA

Vice President Bob Chase said in releasing the report.

"Students learn lessons about life through both formal instruction and what they see around them," Mr. Chase said. "We need more male elementary teachers and more people of color at all grade levels to teach our children."

In Maryland, minorities made up almost 40 percent of the 736,238 students enrolled in public schools last fall and about 21 percent of Maryland's 43,526 teachers.

One reason schools have trouble recruiting minority teachers is that the competition for well-educated minorities in the private sector is intense, and other professions offer higher salaries, more prestige and fancier perks, educators said yesterday. Many minority students take out large student loans to attend college, and this makes highly paid jobs even more attractive, many educators agreed.

"Many of our young people are going into business because they can make more and move up the ladder faster," said Faustine Jones-Wilson, acting dean of the school of education at Howard University. "They have to go into debt to attend college, and they feel that they may have to major in something where the rewards are greater."

Even within the field of education, she added, it pays to move out of the classroom and become a principal or administrator.

Money and status also keep many men from choosing teaching as a career. Men are still expected to be the breadwinners in many families, and teaching, particularly teaching young children, is still considered the realm of women.

"The sexist images have not gone away; they've only gone undercover," said Dale Lange, associate dean of University of Minnesota's College of Education. Men may be more likely to go into high school teaching, Mr. Lange added, because "elementary education is more oriented toward nurturing, and men do not necessarily consider themselves nurturers."

The survey also found that:

* Nearly six of every 10 public school teachers, 59.1 percent, said that they would become teachers again if given the choice. The percentage of teachers reaffirming their career choice has been increasing since 1981, when 46.4 percent said that they would become teachers again.

* Today's teaching force is the best educated in the nation's history; 53.1 percent of America's public school teachers have earned master's degrees or doctorates, compared with about 23 percent in 1961 and 49.6 percent in 1981.

* The required school work week averages 36.2 hours, but teachers spend an average of 10.3 additional hours each week on such activities as bus duty, grading papers and advising clubs.

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