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Teachers & Students

From “With Hispanic students on the rise, Hispanic teachers in short supply” in yesterday’s Post:

The surge in Hispanic students across the nation is forcing schools to reckon with a deep shortage of teachers who share their cultural heritage.

More than 21 percent of schoolchildren are Hispanic, experts report, compared with 7 percent of teachers. No other racial or ethnic minority group has such a wide disparity. In the struggle to close this gap, the stakes are high: Research suggests that a more diverse faculty might lead to better attendance, fewer suspensions and higher test scores. [...] Of 126,000 students in Maryland’s second-largest system [Prince George's], 21 percent are Hispanic. But among teachers, the share is 2 percent.

In Montgomery and Prince William counties, about one out of every four students is Hispanic. But the share among teachers is one in 20. In Fairfax County, the gap is 20 percent (students) to 3 percent (teachers). In the District and Anne Arundel County, the gaps are much smaller.

Enid Gonzalez, a lawyer with CASA de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group, points out that the county’s Latino youth often “look around their school and they don’t see one person who looks like them.” For many young students, teachers are their first and most immediate role models — moreover, teaching is one of the first careers that they may witness full-time. And a diverse faculty implies that such a career is open to and possible for all.

In Prince George’s county, where the number of Hispanic students is more than ten times the number of Hispanic teachers, how might public schools recruit a faculty whose diversity mirrors that of the student body — both in terms of cultural background and language?

For a great example of cross-cultural education, check out Catalogue nonprofit Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School, which creates an empowering environment both for non-native-English speakers (who might elsewhere be penalized for their lack of fluency) and English-dominant ones (who might otherwise not benefit from learning a new language).

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