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It's a teacher's market for those in critical areas.

For the past 24 years, Richard Wark has spent several months each year travelling to more than 100 colleges, universities,and job fairs around the country, recruiting teachers for schools in Georgia's DeKalb County. This year he's especially interested in finding math, science, special education (learning disabled/behaviorally disabled), and speech therapy majors. And even though DeKalb, a suburb of Atlanta, is offering beginner teachers $4,000 more than the national average of $23,000, he still finds many positions in critical areas hard to fill.

"It's war out there. Everyone's competing for the same individuals," Wark says.

Comments like that are music to the ears of many seeking jobs in education. However, landing that dream job depends on whether you fall within the critical categories Wark speaks of.

It is estimated that nationally there are between 150,000 and 200,000 job openings for teachers this year. The U.S. Labor Department is predicting a 1.5 percent growth rate annually in the field over the next 10 years.

Demand for Teachers of Color

People of color, especially African Americans, are being aggressively recruited for these positions. According to figures from the National Education Association (NEA), only eight percent of the nation's 2.8 million public school teachers are African-American. Many of these teachers are employed in urban centers such as Chicago and New York, where minority enrollments are high. However, even in the inner cities, 65 percent of the teachers are White. According to Recruiting New Teachers (RNT) official Segun Eubanks, more than 40 percent of the school districts in this country are all White, in spite of the fact that student populations are becoming more diverse. What some find particularly disturbing is that 74 percent of African-American teachers have taught for 20 years or more. As they retire, they are not being replaced with other minorities.

Cheryl Felix Swinton, who has taught high school home economics at Burke High School, a predominantly African-American school in Charleston, South Carolina, is seeing the change evolve. "Just last year our faculty was 75 percent Black. Now it's dropped to less than 50 percent because many teachers retired and the new hirees are White. Only two Black teachers were hired out of about 25," Swinton says. Swinton believes it will be hard to attract minorities in large numbers to Charleston, where the salary for first-year teachers is only $20,000. Swinton, who now makes $37,000 as a career counselor for a Charleston magnate school, says, "Low salaries are why Black parents have over the years tried to dissuade us from going into teaching as other fields opened up. My mom, who was a teacher, didn't want me to teach because of the low pay."

Nationally, the average public school teacher's salary is slightly over $35,000, with ranges from $48,000 and $46,000 in Connecticut and Alaska to $24,000 to $26,000 in South Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Although they cannot offer higher salaries, some recruiters try to lure critical-need teachers with incentives such as free utilities, housing payments, and other discounts. African Americans definitely fall into the critical-need category and are being heavily recruited in communities all over the country, with African-American males being in the greatest demand, according to Dr. Nathaniel Jackson, senior program officer at the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) in Atlanta.

"Minorities who pass teacher certification are in high demand. Deans tell me they don't have minority students they cannot place, but they have to sometimes go to the jobs--and some don't want to leave home."

The Relocation Factor

This conflict is one that Dr. Mary Dilworth, senior research director at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, also has observed. "I can't think of any community that wouldn't need African Americans...but many teachers want to go to schools [in communities] where they grew up and aren't willing to travel. For example, Washington state (where salaries average nearly $36,000)... has looked for African-American teachers through me, but the students aren't willing to go there," Dilworth says.

The relocation factor is stressed by many recruiters because a job seeker's degree may be in a field that is in demand only in certain areas. For example, Eubanks advises anyone planning to teach elementary education in the suburbs to rethink those goals because, according to the NEA, 59 percent of all teachers are in elementary education. "Elementary education nationally is saturated," Eubanks says.

According to Eubanks, African-American males are about the only educators in high demand in this area. However, there is a shortage of elementary education teachers in Alaska, one of the higher paying regions of the country with salaries averaging more than $46,000. Another example is the speech field. According to RNT, most school systems are well staffed in this area, with the extreme Northeastern area being an exception. Salaries there average from the mid-thirties in Vermont to the high forties in Connecticut.

For those in highly saturated areas such as social studies who are unwilling to relocate, Eubanks advises them to diversify and have dual majors. "Meet the requirements for social studies and another area to help your job search," he says.

Across the country, there is a glut of social studies majors. This is one area where African-American male high school teachers are not in high demand, because most of them major in either this subject or high school English (another slightly oversaturated field except in Alaska, according to RNT).

High-Demand Fields

To be sure, there are fields that are in high demand across the board. There is a shortage of special education teachers in every region of the country, with multi-handicap instructors leading the list for the past two years. There is also a great need for emotionally disabled/behaviorally disabled, speech education learning disability, speech pathology/audiology, and special education/mentally handicapped majors. Teachers in these fields give specially designed instruction to students of all ages with disabilities. Because there are no national standards for special education programs, the requirements for certification in these areas vary from state to state. Therefore, Eubanks advises students in this field to work closely with their school's education officials and state departments of education to ensure that they are meeting all certification requirements. It's so important to "find out if the state you chose has a reciprocity agreement with other states in terms of certification," Eubanks says. "There are 31 states that have reciprocity, which makes it much easier (for teachers who want to change jobs)."

Georgia is one of those 31 states. At Georgia State University, students are required to take general education courses, general special education courses, and courses in their area of specialization, says Dr. Ron Colarusso, chair of the Special Education Department. The department recommends students to the state's certification board, and graduates must also pass a certification exam in their area of specialization, Some students are also getting certified in other areas such as elementary education because of the current trend of mainstreaming special-needs students in regular classroom settings.

Colarusso said enrollment in special education at Georgia State has increased "unbelievably over the past two years." He thinks it's because students are getting the word that fields such as elementary education are oversaturated and that the demand is high for special education majors. However, like most schools across the country, the number of African Americans is not as high as Colarusso would like. Fifteen percent of the special education students at Georgia State are African American. For the past six years, the university has provided scholarships (tuition and books) to attract minorities to the department. Colarusso said they will continue to implement measures to increase minority enrollment.

Another area where school systems are experiencing shortages is bilingualism. One reason, according to SEF's Dr. Jackson, is that "taking a foreign language has become a requirement in a lot of states, whereas before kids took it as an elective. So now you need more teachers to teach languages," he said.

In addition, student populations are becoming more diverse, with about four million students entering school systems who are not proficient in English, according to RNT. Eubanks says, "In Los Angeles alone, 90 languages are spoken in the schools." This trend is also being experienced in the rural and suburban districts. For example, in Gwinnett County, just outside Atlanta, nearly 60 different languages are spoken by students. Eubanks encourages African Americans to pursue careers in this field because they can sometimes command much higher salaries and other incentives.

Two areas that were in high demand in earlier years, but had slightly fewer openings this year, are math and science. For example, physics and chemistry have gone from being critical-need areas to nearly balanced in terms of openings versus the number of teachers majoring in those fields. Most education officials agree with Dr. Jackson that the problem in these areas is one of distribution rather than shortage. School districts in the West, South Central, and Southeastern parts of the country are looking for physics and chemistry teachers. Dr. Jackson says they're out there but not always willing to move to those parts of the country.

"The shortage in terms of the actual number of teachers in math and science was eliminated, but some communities like the rural areas are in great need because people won't go to those areas. Some inner city schools that have bad reputations also have shortages because people won't go there," Dr. Jackson says.

Some states are offering math scholarships on the undergraduate and graduate levels with clauses that say the graduates have to teach for a specified time in that state. Dr. Jackson says Alabama ran a similar program and Georgia is considering implementing one soon.

Santana O'Neal-Jaboe is an African American who majored in math and education at Clemson University. When she graduated, she taught for two years at a middle school in the small rural town of Winnsboro, South Carolina. After acquiring experience there, she landed a position teaching math at a high school in an Atlanta suburb.

"I encourage students to consider teaching as a career because I love math and helping kids learn about it.... There are so many other opportunities for Blacks now, but...I have no desire to leave teaching for business," she says.

O'Neal-Jaboe, who also has a master's in education and a certificate in administration and supervision, is thinking about leaving the classroom for a position as principal if one becomes available in her district. She is optimistic that an opening for her will occur soon, even though most principals first work in the district's central office or as assistant principals. However, having an advanced degree and the proper certification will increase her chances in an area where salaries range from the mid-fifties for elementary school principals to the mid-sixties for high school. As in the state of Illinois where many principals opted for an early retirement program, O'Neal-Jaboe says her district is experiencing an increased number of retirements as well.

Growing Opportunities in Administration

For those interested in education administration careers, there are more opportunities for people of color than there were during the desegregation years when many African Americans lost their positions to Whites. According to the Department of Labor,in 1993 there were more than 350,000 positions in education administration, with a 23 percent increase projected by 2005. Eubanks says personnel directors tell them that they are especially looking for people of color to fill many of the administration vacancies.

Dr. Joseph Greenberg, an education administration professor at George Washington University, sees more minorities than usual getting administration positions, but the numbers still need to be increased. Greenberg advises minorities to specialize in an area such as government relations, fundraising, or public relations. "These areas are hot. State schools are also looking for people with DC and Capitol Hill connections," he says. According to Greenberg, the turnover for college presidents, another area that is opening up, is three and a half years. "You have to have significant experience in higher education or fundraising expertise to get the job.... Our president does not have a PhD, but he was a former president and a nationally recognized fundraiser," he says.

Because most education administration positions require advanced degrees, enrollments in graduate administration programs are increasing. Greenberg says George Washington University's master's program is filled and its doctoral program in administration received more than 200 applications for only 20 positions.

Salaries for education administrators vary depending on one's experience, school, and area of employment. Dr. Jackson says the average salary is $60,000, with superintendents and college presidents in large areas easily earning six figures. According to the Department of Labor, academic deans in medicine, law, and engineering are also in the six-figure category.

Overall, the outlook is good for people of color seeking positions in education, whether at the classroom or administrative level. The advice many education experts-give prospective teachers is to work with children early if you want to be a teacher (summer camps, churches, YMCA, etc.), to find out if you have the patience for the classroom setting. Observe special education classrooms so you know what they involve. Do your homework in terms of knowing what the certification requirements are for your area of study on the secondary and higher education levels. Find out not only what jobs are in high demand but also the most updated information on where those jobs are located, because the needs in the various areas often change yearly.

The good news for African Americans is that the education community recognizes that positions in school systems, especially leadership vacancies, need to be diversified, and they are making the effort to ensure that more of those hired in education reflect the makeup of the country. The key is to be prepared when an opportunity is presented.

For More Information

Recruiting New Teachers 385 Concord Avenue, Suite 100 Belmont, MA 01178

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Employment Projections 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20212

U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Room 300-E Washington, DC 20208-5641

Southern Education Foundation 135 Auburn Avenue Atlanta, GA 30303

American Association of School Administrators 1801 North Moore Street Arlington, VA 22209

Council for Exceptional Children 1920 Association Drive Reston, VA 22091

National Association for Sport & Physical Education 1900 Association Drive Reston, VA 22091

Top 10 Education Employers

1. Broward County School Board 2. Peace Corps 3. Clark County School District 4. Prince George's County Schools 5. Valusia County Schools 6. Fairfax County Public Schools 7. Collier County Public Schools 8. Caddo Parish School Board 9. Worldteach/Harvard Institute 10. West Aurora School District

Gwendolyn Glenn is a freelance writer and independent radio producer in Atlanta.
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Title Annotation:Career Report: Education
Author:Glenn, Gwendolyn
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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