Hispanics comprise less than two percent of the mathematics and science teachers currently employed in school districts throughout the United States. This digest reviews a variety of strategies that might be employed by school districts, teacher education institutions, and state educational agencies to attract, train, and retrain Hispanics in math and science.
WHY DO WE NEED HISPANIC MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS?
The shortage of qualified Hispanic math and science teachers is one of the most pressing problems faced by schools in the United States today. Public school teaching has been an avenue available to Hispanics for many decades, but data provided by the National Association of Secondary School Principals indicate that Hispanics comprise less than two percent of chemistry, physics, and biology teachers currently employed (Neil, 1982). If knowledge of science and mathematics is the door to modern technology and progress, then Hispanic children must have models and mentors in these areas if they are to achieve parity in a growing technological world.
HOW CAN HISPANIC YOUTH BE ATTRACTED TO MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHING?
A variety of ideas have been suggested to meet the short-term needs of school districts regarding Hispanic math and science teachers. However, the long-term solution lies in attracting high school graduates into the teaching profession, particularly into the fields of science and mathematics. The following list of action-oriented steps is derived from a variety of plans and programs that have been suggested to implement this goal.
--Identify talented Hispanic high school students. Teacher education programs at colleges and universities need to work with public school districts to identify Hispanic youth that show promise or skill in either mathematics or science.
--Develop their interest in teaching. Hispanic youth that have been identified as particularly interested or able in science or math must be introduced to the teaching profession while still in high school. Individualized programs must be developed where these students work closely with "master" science and math teachers. The intent is to demonstrate to students that the teaching profession is a viable and challenging career alternative. Additionally, students will be exposed to the various benefits of the teaching profession (e.g., working with youth, watching young people grow and develop, living in an environment of learning).
--Locate and engage "master" teachers. State departments of education should encourage school districts to identify master teachers in science and math. This teacher should be Hispanic, to serve as an effective role model. The master teacher can be offered a variety of incentives for working with Hispanic youth.
--Arrange significant student-teacher contact. Hispanic youth with abilities in the areas of math and science can be given a variety of paraprofessional teaching responsibilities while still in school. Students can be given release time to work as aides for master teachers or to do peer teaching. They may conduct science experiments for the class and give class presentations in specified areas. Students can be of particular use to a teacher if Spanish/English bilingualism is needed to clarify specific points or to present particular lessons.
--Provide incentives for students to participate in special programs. As with teachers, Hispanic youth need to be given a variety of incentives to attract them to the programs outlined above. Sadly, the opportunity to be a math or science teacher may not be particularly attractive, at first glance, to a youth from lower socioeconomic standing. The idea, however, is for students to consider teaching as a career alternative.
Franz, Aldridge, and Clark (1983) propose several guidelines for attracting youth in general into science teaching. Adaptations of their recommendations are presented here:
- Recognition and honors (letter jackets) through city and school newspapers, assemblies, and parental gatherings should be awarded.
- Released time from regular classwork for preparation of math or science lessons or for peer tutorials in science and math should be arranged.
- Visitation to universities to observe the teaching of science and mathematics should be scheduled.
- Visitation to teacher education programs in area universities to familiarize students with the teaching profession should be scheduled. action guidelines.
--Part-time instructors can be recruited from other segments of society. In communities with large Hispanic populations, retired Hispanic teachers or retired Hispanic members of industry or government may be available to serve as part-time math and science teachers. With the proper supervision and support, these individuals can be excellent role models for Hispanic youth contemplating careers in science, engineering, or teaching. They have been very useful to community colleges attempting to meet growing enrollments in science and math while facing a dearth of faculty in these areas.
--Skilled professionals can also be borrowed from industry. The possibility of using skilled Hispanic mathematicians, engineers, and scientists working in private industry or governmental agencies as teachers has seemed remote to public districts. Community colleges have been quite successful in this area. Many private businesses and industries are quite willing to lend their professional employees to local school districts if arrangements are agreeable to all. However, school districts must initiate the request for this type of help.
Although it is easy to see how many incentives are possible, school districts must work to implement them if Hispanic teachers of other courses are to be encouraged to qualify in the areas of math and sciences.
HOW CAN THESE PROGRAMS BE FINANCED?
Financing these programs becomes a major problem. Guthrie and Zusman (1982), and Good and Hinkel (1983) offer a number of options that might be useful to states, teacher preparation programs, and school districts. Hispanic youths in teacher education programs can be assisted in a number of ways:
- Industry-financed, university-provided, or school district provided scholarships designated explicitly for Hispanic youth in science or mathematics teacher education.
- Low interest or non-payable loans and/or grants can be specifically designated for Hispanics who will teach for three years or more in the public schools.
- A tuition-free fifth (or sixth) year of university teacher education available to non-math and non-science Hispanics interested in certifying as science or math teachers.
- Summer or part-time jobs arranged in business or industry and specifically designated for Hispanics in teacher education programs directed at math and science.
For Hispanic teachers currently employed or underemployed, an additional set of options can be made available:
- Bonuses, differentiated pay, grants, tuition reimbursement, and scholarships for Hispanic teachers willing to recertify in science or math related areas.
- Mid-career internships for Hispanic teachers to work in math or science areas of industry.
- State or federally sponsored programs implemented specifically for Hispanic teachers accomplish the following:
Upgrade the existing pool of teachers in science and math;
Retrain teachers in related subject-matter areas to become science and math teachers;
Assist teachers in completing master's degree requirements in math and science areas that would, in the long term, make them eligible for salary increments.
- Federal and/or state tax credits granted to Hispanic teachers willing to stay in or enter math or science fields.
- School-initiated cooperative efforts with business and industry to employ teachers part-time, summers, or (after three years of service to the schools) full-time. Teachers, however, must agree to return to the school districts for a specified number of years in order to be eligible for these part-time or summer programs.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY ELEMENTS OF A PLAN TO ACQUIRE MORE HISPANIC SCIENCE AND MATH TEACHERS?
Two key steps must be taken to alleviate the shortages of Hispanic math and science teachers. The first is to attract Hispanic youth into the areas of math and science education. Existing low teacher salaries are not going to attract talented Hispanic youth to teach science and mathematics. Therefore, it is imperative that salaries of Hispanic math and science teachers be attractive and competitive. Additionally, Hispanic youth will not be attracted to math and science teaching if substantial funds are not available for scholarships, low interest loans, and/or internships and part-time jobs.
The second step, albeit temporary, is to retrain Hispanic teachers in over-supplied discipline areas (e.g., history and English) so they can teach math and science. School districts and state education agencies must (1) be supportive of Hispanic teachers who return to teacher education programs to be recertified in math and science; (2) facilitate the use of part-time Hispanic professionals from business and industry as teachers; (3) facilitate the employment of Hispanic math and science teachers in business and industry on a temporary basis; and (4) provide financial incentives in the form of bonuses or other rewards for Hispanic teachers who are willing to stay in math and science teaching.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Burns, M. "The Current Status of Hispanic Technical Professionals: How Can We Improve Recruitment and Retention?" INTEGRATED EDUCATION 20 (1982): 49-55.
Franz, J. R., B. Aldridge, and R. B. Clark. "The Crisis in High School Physics Teaching: Paths to a Solution." PHYSICS TODAY (1983): 44-49.
Good, T. L. and G. M. Hinkel. TEACHER SHORTAGE IN SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS: MYTHS, REALITIES, AND RESEARCH. Washington, DC: National Institute of Education, 1983. ED 231 653.
Guthrie, J. W. and A. Zusman. "Teacher Supply and Demand in Math and Science." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 64 (1982): 23-33.
IMPACT OF TEACHER SHORTAGES AND SURPLUS ON QUALITY ISSUES IN TEACHER EDUCATION. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1983. ED 238 890.
Neill, G. "Quality of Math and Science Teaching: Federal Commission Studies Problem." NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY SCHOOL BULLETIN 66 (1982): 41-48.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE SYMPOSIUM ON THE EFFECTS ON TECHNOLOGY ON A VANISHING SPECIES: MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS, 1982. ED 221 356.
Rush, G. S. "Corrective Measures in the Teacher Shortages: Consequences and Conclusions." EDUCATION 104 (1983): 34-37.
Sigda, R. B. "The Crisis in Science Education and the Realities of Science Teaching in the Classroom." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 64 (1983): 624-627.