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As students look different in Southern Indiana, will teachers change too?

Alan Petersime

It’s not just unfilled teaching jobs that present a challenge for Indiana schools. Another struggle is hiring teachers who reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of their students.

In some parts of the state, that problem is getting tougher.

Around this time last year, some Indiana schools began raising alarms as open teaching jobs became harder to fill. Data suggested the problem was not that there weren’t enough qualified teachers to fill all the open jobs in the state, but that matching teachers with the right experience and qualifications to the right jobs in the right places was the main challenge.

In other words, there were plenty of Hoosiers qualified to teach, but perhaps not enough qualified to teach Calculus who were willing to take an open job in a rural area.

On Sunday, the Louisville Courier-Journal examined another dimension to this problem: the challenge of attracting minority teachers to take jobs in remote parts of the state.

The need is growing in Southern Indiana, the Courier-Journal reports, because student enrollment is changing in many of its school districts. As the students they teach become more diverse, school leaders in that part of the state are stepping up efforts to recruit teachers who look more like their students.

The Courier-Journal writes:

As Southern Indiana schools’ student population becomes increasingly diverse, its pool of teachers remains overwhelmingly white.

Local education leaders – who say having more teachers of color provides students with diverse role models and in some cases can increase student achievement – acknowledge that despite efforts to recruit more minority teachers, the state of diversity remains low as school districts nationwide compete for the same small pool of minority teacher candidates.

“The problem becomes that when you don’t see yourself reflected in the faces of teachers, subconsciously, you’re thinking, ‘That’s not something that we do,’” said Sharon Jones, who oversees minority recruitment efforts at New Albany-Floyd County Schools.

As districts in Southern Indiana enter the new school year, educators in the region are approaching the issue with a renewed aggressiveness and identifying more collaborative, innovative ways to attract and retain more teachers of color.

Read the full story here.

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