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Achievement gap emphasizes need for diverse teachers
By PHILIP WEYHE firstname.lastname@example.org
Minnesota’s 2014 graduation rates saw improvements across the board, yet a sizable gap between white and non-white students still remains.
As more and more students from diverse backgrounds and cultures seek better educational opportunities, the achievement gap becomes more noticeable and more straining on school districts. If the goal is for every student to have the same opportunity to learn, the results aren’t showing it.
Tri-City United Superintendent Teri Preisler believes that students need to have role models in their school to maximize learning potential.
“Students look to adults in their lives as role models, and that may be their parents, another relative, a community member, an educator, or someone else,” she said. “Having role models in our schools who students can relate to can make a difference and help make connections.”
A student of color, particularly in smaller rural districts, often face learning environments in which a role model at school is hard to come by, because there are few and maybe no adults who look like them.
Students of color currently make up 28 percent of the state’s high school and elementary enrollment, according to a recent Minnesota Public Radio News article. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of teachers across the state are non-white.
“I would say it’s really important that school staff reflects your community and student body,” said St. Peter Superintendent Paul Peterson. “It’s important that the school district continues to seek out and collect high quality staff, and having a diverse staff is a benefit.”
In St. Peter, an increasing number of Somali and Hispanic families have entered and remained a part of the community. Peterson said that these families are great additions and are important to the community, and the school has to be able to support these varying cultures.
“These families bring wonderful customs and traditions to our community,” he said. “It’s important we continue to learn from them and provide appropriate education.”
Both Peterson and Preisler noted, though, that while their staffs did contain diversity, they are not yet seeing enough diversity in qualified candidates.
“Approximately 15 percent of education graduates in Minnesota are teachers of color,” Preisler said. “That’s a very small percentage and there are many school districts in Minnesota working to hire the best candidates.”
Reach Reporter Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8576 or follow him on Twitter.com @LNHphilip.
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