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