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.
Prince George’s, like many school systems, faces several challenges in finding Hispanic teachers in tight budget times. Many of its Hispanic residents are immigrants and lack college degrees. County recruiters have tried several strategies: word of mouth, e-mail blasts, going to Puerto Rico, recruiting from colleges with many Hispanic students and offering to cover job prospects’ relocation costs to sweeten the deal.
“If we hear of a Hispanic teacher who is qualified, we are going to go after them,” said Robert Gaskin, the county’s recruiting director. “Everyone is.”
The portion of Hispanic students in public schools nationwide doubled from 1989 to 2009, federal data show, and will rise further in coming years. In test scores and graduation rates, Hispanic students trail their non-Hispanic white and Asian peers.
For out-of-town hiring, competition is stiff. School systems comb through the private sector, looking for professionals in search of a higher purpose. They battle at job fairs at Hispanic-serving colleges.