WASHINGTON - The growing racial and ethnic diversity of the nation's public school students is not reflected among the teaching staff, which remains overwhelmingly white and female, according to a new study released yesterday.
Male teachers are an increasingly endangered species in America's public school classrooms, comprising only 21 percent of the teaching work force - the lowest percentage in 40 years, the National Education Association reported.
At a news conference, NEA President Reg Weaver noted the “troubling'' lack of diversity in the teaching work force, saying it deprives students of minority and male role models.
“Many young people come to school without having a father at home, and when they're able to have access to a male teacher as a father figure, it certainly bodes well for them - and the same thing with minorities,'' Mr. Weaver said.
The typical public-school teacher is white, female, 46, and married with school-age children, according to the NEA, using figures from the 2000-2001 school year.
The study is conducted every five years to give the public and education policy makers a “snapshot” inside the classroom. The NEA is the nation's largest union, representing 68 percent, or 2.7 million, of teachers. The NEA report, the “Status of the American Public School Teacher,” aims to help education groups shape their agendas and mold the country's image of teachers. The survey results, based on responses from a representative sample of 1,467 teachers, have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
According to the report, the majority of American teachers – 56 percent – now have master's degrees, compared with 23 percent in 1961, when the NEA began the teacher study. In addition, today's teachers have an average of 15 years of full-time experience. The largest percentage of teachers, 43 percent, have taught more than 20 years.
“Children attending public schools today ... are being taught by the most experienced teachers ever,'' Mr. Weaver said.
At Toledo Public Schools, 2,336 of 2,750 teachers, or 85 percent, were white, and 2,130 of 2,750 teachers, or 77 percent, were female during the 2002-2003 school year.
The percentage of minority teachers in the district increased from 13 percent in 2001-2002 to 16 percent in 2002-2003.
Other report highlights:
The average class size is at an all-time low in elementary school - 21 students. Secondary school teachers have an average class size of 28 students, down from 31 students in 1996 but still higher than the low of 23 students in 1981.
Teachers spend an average of 50 hours per week on their duties and $443 of their own money on their students during the year.
Seventy-three percent of teachers said they chose their profession because they wanted to work with young people. While 60 percent said they would choose teaching as a career again, that represents a slight decrease from previous years.
Of those who said they plan to leave teaching, 37 percent cited low salaries.
Mr. Weaver said low salaries relative to other professions have particularly undercut efforts to recruit men and minorities to be teachers. The average contract salary for teachers in 2001 was $43,262.
“Low salaries are driving people from the profession,'' he said. “The very groups we need to recruit and retain the most are leaving the profession because of the poor compensation.''
This story includes information from the Associated Press.