Schools lag in hiring teachers to match student demographic | AspenTimes.com

Schools lag in hiring teachers to match student demographic

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A steady rise in the number of Latino students in area public schools has prompted a push to hire a more representative mix of teachers and support staff to help serve that population.

And, Colorado Mountain College’s recently added new bachelor’s degree program for teacher certification could prove to be an important pipeline to help achieve that goal.

Currently, 126 of the Roaring Fork School District’s approximately 850 regular full- and part-time staff identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, or 14.8 percent. That’s according to district data for the current school year.

That, compared to a student population that is more than 50 percent Hispanic.

Of the approximately 500 district employees who work directly with the 5,600 students, 72 identify as Hispanic or Latino. That’s about the same percentage.

And, breaking it down to just teachers: out of 391, 21 were Latino or Hispanic, according to 2016-17 statistics available on the Colorado Department of Education website.

“The challenge for us is to hire and maintain a staff, especially teachers, that is representative demographically of our own student population,” said Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein.

For Garfield Re-2 and Garfield District 16, the percentage of Hispanic students is lower, at about 44 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Likewise, the number of Hispanic/Latino teachers is somewhat lower — seven out of 288 for Re-2 and just one out of 74 for D16, according to last year’s numbers.

CMC’s teacher education program now has its first group of fourth-year students doing their student teaching. That could help the district hire more teachers locally in general, and specifically more Hispanic teachers, Stein said.

“We have a lot of our own students who grew up here in the valley and want to go into teaching,” he said, adding that students who go off to get their teacher training elsewhere are less likely to come home.

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Through CMC, Roaring Fork Schools and other neighboring districts such as Garfield Re-2, Garfield 16 and Eagle County Schools may be more likely to find teachers from this area who already have a familiarity with the local schools.

Of the approximately 200 CMC students majoring in teaching, 64, or 32 percent, identify in their student enrollment information as Hispanic or Latino, according to Barbara Johnson, who directs the college’s teacher education program. A little more than 50 percent are white.

Of the 100 or so students currently enrolled in teaching courses, 29 identify as Latino or Hispanic. And, of the 11 students in year four who are doing their student teaching this school year, five are Latina, Johnson said.

When the program started four years ago, CMC created limited marketing to attract Latino students to enroll, Johnson said. Current students are also asked to identify anyone, regardless of ethnicity, who would be a good teacher, she said.

“Our hope is that the teachers we produce will reflect the population of our communities,” she said. From the perspective of a K-12 student, “having a teacher who looks like ‘me’ is a powerful help to student learning and success.”

Attracting a more representative mix of teaching students by gender has been more challenging, she added. Program-wide, only 10 percent of CMC’s teaching majors are male.