The Herald Bulletin
---- — Educators say it’s important for students to see teachers and other school officials they can identify with in the classrooms, hallways and offices.
For many minority students at Anderson Community Schools, that’s frequently not the case.
Of the approximately 7,000 students attending ACS this year, 40 percent are minorities. That rate is not reflected in the teacher population, where only 7 percent of 478 staff members are minorities.
Balancing that equation is a battle ACS has been fighting for years. It’s been extremely difficult for the school system to attract highly qualified minority candidates while facing stiff competition from affluent communities with the resources to offer incentives and dealing with the union’s strict hiring rules. You can read more about ACS’ difficulties by searching for “black teacher pool” at heraldbulletin.com.
It’s undeniably beneficial for minorities to see themselves reflected in education and leadership roles — black teachers and other community officials are vital role models for younger generations. It’s also imperative that ACS hire the best possible candidates, no matter their race, and the administration should continue to be aggressive in doing so.
ACS should work with the local minority coalition — a group comprised of minority-focused local organizations and members of the public with a 10-point plan for improving conditions for the community, particularly for minority and low-income groups — to examine its hiring practices. But it’s also time for a little outside-the-box thinking. With minority enrollment faltering in education programs at colleges such as Ball State University’s Teachers College and the diversity gap likely to grow in the future, new ideas are needed to interest minority students in the teaching profession. Working with local black leaders, the schools should pursue in-school or after-school programs that introduce minority students to teaching. Many students might find they have a passion for leading a classroom in language, math or the sciences. Couple those opportunities with coaching responsibilities and even more students may have an interest.
The school system must also find a way to bring those students back to the community once they’ve met the state’s requirements to teach. Perhaps scholarships that require a few years of service in ACS might incentivize students to return.
A balance in the diversity of ACS’ student population and its teaching staff will be hard to come by. Within its own classrooms might be the best place for the school system to start.
In summary A balance in the diversity of ACS' student population and its teaching staff will be hard to come by. Within its own classrooms might be the best place for the school system to start.