TUSD Spending $550,000 to Recruit Highly Qualified, Minority Teachers

Chelsey Killebrew, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), October 13, 2008

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Tucson Unified School District officials hope that kind of connection through culture will help them reach other students, too.

The district has launched a $550,000 effort to recruit highly qualified and minority teachers, hoping to diversify its staff and give minority students a better chance of seeing themselves as part of the education system.

Experts say the feeling of belonging translates into long-term success for students, an important goal for a district whose minority students traditionally trail Anglo counterparts in academic achievement.

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More than 40 percent of Tucson’s population is Hispanic, according to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the most recent available. That year, about 24 percent of TUSD teachers were Hispanic. Last year, the number fell to about 21 percent.

TUSD employed 1,009 high school teachers last year, and five were American Indian. There were two Asian teachers in all middle schools combined. Anglo teachers made up 74 percent of the teaching staff.

Experts tend to support the idea that schools should reflect the populations they serve.

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{snip} Miscommunication can arise between ethnicities because of different cultural upbringings, she said.

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Also, children begin to associate achievement in school with a certain ethnicity when they don’t have teachers of the same ethnicity to look up to, Evans said. School needs to represent a place where all people can excel, she added.

The benefits aren’t just for minority students, either, Evans said. A diverse faculty “helps European-American kids realize they have something to learn. . . . We need to build on each other’s knowledge.”

Richard Foster heads the TUSD effort, and he will travel to other cities and states in search of minority teachers.

His recruiting strategies include attending job fairs, participating in educational-diversity fairs, visiting historically black colleges and urban areas with large black populations, and reaching out to American Indian and Hispanic communities.

TUSD also will use the Internet as an advertising tool to gain national exposure, Foster said.

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