ERIC Identifier: ED379386
Publication Date: 1995-02-00
Author: Goodwin, A. Lin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Urban Education New York NY.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Teaching. ERIC/CUE
Digest Number 104.
The nation's schools are increasingly multiracial even as the teaching force
continues to be predominantly white. This juxtaposition of burgeoning "minority"
school populations against dwindling numbers of "minority" teachers has drawn
much scholarly attention (American Association of Colleges for Teacher
Education, 1990a). Yet, few studies include data on Asian and Pacific Islander
(API) teachers (for example, Darling-Hammond, Pittman, & Ottinger, 1987),
rendering information partial, at best. This digest reviews available data on
APIs in order to assess their presence in the teaching profession.
API TEACHERS AND STUDENTS: AN UNEQUAL EQUATION
expanding portion of both the population and school enrollments (National Center
for Education Statistics, 1992a), APIs constitute only one percent of all
teachers (AACTE, 1990a; 1994). APIs are largely absent from teacher preparation
programs, despite a 22 percent increase in their college participation rates
between 1989 and 1991. In fact, mean API registration in teacher education
programs hovers at about one percent, with an average of eight API preservice
teachers enrolled annually. While mean teacher education enrollments have
increased among all ethnic groups, including APIs, there is still negligible API
enrollment (under one percent) in colleges of education in 39 of 50 states; the
greatest percentages of API education majors are clustered in only eight states
in the Western United States (AACTE, 1994).
A national study conducted by AACTE/Metropolitan Life (AACTE, 1990b) surveyed
472 students from 42 colleges of education on their teacher preparation
experiences. Though the sample included only 18 API students, most teacher
education studies have excluded APIs altogether, so the AACTE study can offer
critical insight into API experiences and perceptions.
Some of the more salient findings were that API teacher education students
were likely to have attended predominantly API high schools but were more likely
than other "minority" teacher education students to attend mostly white
universities. This may explain why more APIs assessed their teacher education
institutions as insensitive to minority concerns than did African Americans or
Latinos. Half of the APIs surveyed saw the baccalaureate as the highest degree
they would attain, as compared to 17 percent of whites, 9 percent of blacks, and
11 percent of Hispanics. Only one-third of API respondents aspired to Master's
degrees as compared to 41 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of blacks, and 70
percent of whites. This is problematic given the fact that post-baccalaureate
study is usually required for permanent teacher certification.
Half the APIs studied were in elementary education, about a third in early
childhood education, with the balance specializing in secondary and special
education. About half were simultaneously pursuing liberal arts majors. None was
specializing in bilingual education. Finally, only one-third of the API students
considered English their native language while 31.3 percent came from families
earning less than $15 thousand a year.
Any discussion of APIs in teacher education must include faculty. In 1992,
API faculty of all ranks numbered just under 43,000 with men outnumbering women
four to one. Given an overwhelmingly white and female teacher education
professoriate and the low numbers of API women faculty in general, it is not
surprising that APIs constitute only 1.5 percent of education faculty (NCES,
1994) even while APIs are well-represented in the non-education doctoral pool
(Brown, 1988). Compounding the shortage of API education faculty is the
concentration of API doctorates in engineering and computer sciences, and the
fact that API PhDs enter academia at rates lower than the national average
APIS IN THE EDUCATION PIPELINE
Chinn and Wong (1992) report
that a number of studies surveying the career choices of API college students
identify business/management and engineering as frequent first choices for the
largest numbers of respondents, while education invariably ranked poorly. Under
four percent of API college students prepare for teaching careers as compared to
nearly 12 percent of all college students.
These data are confirmed by an examination of Bachelor's degrees conferred on
API graduates during the 1989-90 year. Education ranked thirteenth of 29 fields
of study, with only 931 APIs earning Bachelor's degrees in education (Gall &
This disturbing trend is repeated in a recent survey of tenth graders'
occupational expectations (NCES, 1992a). While more than half of the API tenth
graders surveyed expected to be working in professional, business, or managerial
fields by age 30, only 1.7 percent saw themselves as teachers. Out of 13
occupational choices, teaching ranked higher than only four -- farmer,
homemaker, laborer, and service worker.
The prognosis for higher education faculty is equally dim. In 1989-90, APIs
received 4.9 percent of all doctorates but only 1.7 percent of doctorates in
education. This represents a 0.2 percent loss compared to 1988-89, and a 0.7
percent loss when compared to 1987-88 figures (Thurgood & Weinman, 1990).
During the same period, African Americans increased their percentage of
education doctorates from 7.5 to 8.2, and Latinos from 2.9 to 3.3. In fact, 125
APIs received education doctoral degrees in 1988-89, but only 95 earned them in
1989-90 (NCES, 1992a). This statistic becomes more alarming when coupled with
findings from a survey of teacher education students (AACTE, 1990b) where only
16.8 percent of API respondents aspired to doctorates as compared to 49 percent
of Hispanics and 37 percent of blacks.
Why this is so is unclear. Since APIs do receive doctorates at
disproportional rates, they are considered to be over-represented in higher
education. Thus, they may not be actively recruited by doctoral programs. Also,
the cost of completing a doctorate may appear prohibitive to API teacher
education students who are likely to come from families who are struggling
financially. Understanding why API high schoolers and college students seem not
to perceive teaching as a viable career demands an analysis of what draws
individuals to the field and the impediments which deflect them.
ENTERING TEACHING: MOTIVATIONS AND IMPEDIMENTS
In a study
of 22 API licensed and preservice teachers (Goodwin & Genishi, 1994), three
reasons emerged as most important for choosing teaching--making a difference or
engaging in meaningful work (73 percent), a love for children/interactions with
young people (60 percent), and a love of learning/being in schools (53 percent).
The study also asked APIs to identify barriers that might deter them from
teaching. The perception of teaching as unintellectual was ranked by two-thirds
of respondents as a primary obstacle. About half also cited teachers' salaries
and the perception of teaching as low status work. While these are weighty
barriers to most individuals who think about teaching (Goodwin, 1991), Goodwin
and Genishi's study revealed another impediment: the influence of immigrant
status. In API cultures, career choices may be governed by two factors: (1)
individual decisions to enter any profession may be linked to the community's
struggle to "make it" in America; and (2) as first or second generation
immigrants, many Asian Americans do not have a long established financial or
social base. Thus, APIs in the teaching pipeline are likely to be responsible
for building these bases for their families.
These factors notwithstanding, APIs, like other racial groups, are drawn to
the teaching profession by intrinsic rewards that transcend status or salary
(Goodwin, 1991). Yet, despite the fact that APIs are seriously underrepresented
in teaching ranks at both precollegiate and postsecondary levels, and that
contemporary conversations about "minority" teacher shortages have emphasized
ways of attracting "minorities" to teaching, APIs are often ineligible for many
special recruitment projects, fellowships, and state programs designed to
increase the number of teachers of color. This may be attributed to pervasive
perceptions of APIs as "model minorities," high achievers who attend college at
ever increasing rates and are therefore in need of little affirmative action
assistance. Yet, this review has revealed that many APIs who do choose to teach
do not conform to "model minority" stereotypes and are likely to benefit from
teacher recruitment programs.
As long as APIs are underrepresented, the
American teaching force cannot be considered inclusive. Incentives to attract
APIs to teaching include the following (Goodwin & Genishi, 1994):
financial aid and scholarship packages;
or "minority" faculty;
and counselors sensitive to API student needs;
supports such as academic or counseling services;
and social events, and support groups for API and other ethnic students;
infusion of content relevant to APIs into teacher preparation courses; and
opportunities to work with API practitioners in the field.
These incentives can only materialize if educators and policy makers believe
that it is important to recruit APIs. Indeed, while the rhetoric of education
reform purports to be inclusive, practice has been exclusionary. This is not to
imply that African American or Latino teachers are not in critical need or that
Asian American and Pacific Islanders are needed even more; such arguments are
divisive and counterproductive. The real issue is that to meet the needs of a
pluralistic society Asian Americans should be seen as deserving of the attention
of teacher educators and schools in terms of hiring and recruitment.
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