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Monograph Series Volume II, Number 2

Executive Summary

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Issue Area One: Curriculum that Adequately Addresses the Concerns and Needs of People of Color in Education.

Issue Area Two: The Importance of Sensitivity in Dealing with Cultural Diversity in Education.

Issue Area Three: Support and Mentoring for People of Color in Education.

Issue Area Four: Coping with and Addressing Racism in Our Educational Institutions.

Issue Area Five: Expectations and Standards of Performance for People of Color in Education.

Issue Area Six: Appropriate Role Models for People of Color in Education (Social, Academic, Administration)

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Executive Summary
Dave Else

 Octavio Paz reminds us that "life is plurality, death is uniformity. Every view that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life." (1985). While there has been a great deal of rhetoric and certainly some action that as resulted in progress, the American society continues to be haunted by inequality of its people and widespread failure to value diversity. Until educators begin to value differences and prize them as resources for learning, American youth will not experience the type of learning environment that prepares them to live productively in a world characterized by adversity (Pine & Hilliard, 1990).

 Numerous issues are facing people of color in education. The ethnic diversity of the student population in American education is steadily increasing, however there is considerable disparity between the number of ethnically diverse students and the number of educators who are ethnically diverse. The need for more people of color to become professional educators is evident. Concern over this disparity is noted in New Strategies for Producing Minority Teachers, prepared by the Education Commission of the States:

A Teaching force unbalanced in its representation of the nation's population is inappropriate at best and has profound implications for the country. The United States cannot have a functioning democracy without respect for and involvement of all of its citizens. It cannot afford to be class oriented, while other countries move toward a more democratic way of life. To do so would be to deny the contributions of many American citizens and an even greater number of the world's citizens. (p. 7).
The report goes on to say that by the end of the century only 5% of teachers are expected to be minority, while one third of the students will be.

 The state of Iowa reflects national trends. Even with its limited minority population of approximately 5%, considerable disparity exists between the number of minority students and their counterparts in the teaching force as seen by the fact that people of color constitute less than 1% of the state's teachers and 2% of the administrators. Various reasons have been cited as explanations for these trends: demography, poor academic preparation and performance, pay, absence of a professional support system,working conditions, and attractive career opportunities in other professions.

 Not only is it important to have role model diversity in our schools, it is imperative that different views resulting from diversity, be considered when curriculum, instruction, and other decisions impacting education are made. Fewer than 30% of minority children take courses that prepare them for a four year college or university, according to the Quality Education for Minorities projects (Education That Works). For example many districts continue to "track" poor and/or minority students into low level courses. (Gursky, 1990). Our failure to provide for widespread success of children from other ethnic populations is a national disgrace. Students, during the schooling years, must be in an environment in which they can experience diversity in people and cultures and thus, understand people from backgrounds different from their own.

 Racism continues to plague our homes, schools, and communities. Whether it is in the form of subtle overtones in a classroom to more blatant acts such as cross burnings in Dubuque, racism is alive and well in Iowa. As Pine and Hilliard (1990) note, "If Americans are to embrace diversity, the conscious and unconscious expressions of racism within our society must be identified and done away with" (p. 593).

 Many institutions are beginning to address the issues facing people of color with innovative efforts such as the minorities in teaching program at the University of Northern Iowa which reaches youngsters at the middle school level and exposes them to the possibilities of Higher Education. However, there are so many issues to be addressed. State and national plans of action to address issues that impact education from the perspective of people of color who are students, educators, policymakers, and parent is critical to our growth as a state and nation. With this premise in mind, the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Minorities In Teaching Program at the University of Northern Iowa sponsored a working conference to identify and define critical issues facing people of color in education, develop options for resolution of issues and build consensus on recommendations and strategies that better enable policymakers and leaders to develop educational institutions where all racial and cultural groups share equal access to learning opportunities which prepare the way for quality lives.

 Forty-five school and agency leaders, university faculty, and recognized experts were invited to the University of Northern Iowa campus. Individuals were selected based on their keen interest in issues facing people of color in education, their skills as communicators, and their enthusiasm toward exploring issues in an indepth and interactive environment. The purpose of the conference was to establish an agenda for collaborative action among school leaders and to influence public policy related to the support of people of color in education.

 Each conference participant selected one of six focus areas:

  • Lack of curriculum that adequately addresses the needs and concerns of people of color.
  • Support and mentoring for people of color in education.
  • Coping with and addressing racism in educational institutions.
  • Appropriate role models for people of color in education.
  • The importance of sensitivity in dealing with cultural diversity in education.
  • Expectations and standards of performance for people of color in education.
Participants prioritized interest areas and were then invited to write a position paper on the area to which they were assigned. Papers were submitted prior to the conference, copied, and sent to participants of specified focus areas.

 During the three day conference, the practical knowledge in school and non school settings was brought into relationship with the theoretical knowledge of the university; the research of Dr. Barbara Holmes, Project Director of New Strategies for Producing Minority Teachers; and the teachings of Dr. Asa Hilliard III, nationally recognized psychologist and historian and Fuller E. Calloway Professor of Education at Georgia State University. The result was stimulating dialogue which addressed the complex issues facing people of color in education. Participants worked extensively in their focus area groups but did come together periodically to share ideas and offer input between groups. The insights and ideas which evolved offer a foundation for future decision making which may be of interest to policy makers, educators and parents.

 The position papers in each focus area are preceded by a consensus report written by the group's facilitator. Because time constraints prevented development of a conference report, these reports represent the views of the participants within each focus area and are not necessarily shared by all conference participants. While the reader is encouraged to read the entire monograph to gain detail and understanding, the following recommendations are presented to highlight the outcomes of the conference:

  • Cultural factors must be incorporated into school curricula, including historical and present treatment of racial and ethnically diverse groups. Educators must also reflect cultural sensitivity in their interactions with students, parents, colleagues, and community members.
  • School policies and practices should be reviewed for discriminatory language and action taken to eliminate such language and policies.
  • Develop political action committees and support legislators who actively support the diverse population in our state and nation.
  • Formulate programs and activities to ensure that all school personnel are culturally sensitive through culturally specific inservice training; assessment and modification of inservice training; and inclusion of cultural sensitivity as part of teacher administrator performance evaluations.
  • Use available valid research on cultural sensitivity and apply it effectively in schools.
  • Develop and implement policies that:
    1. Require public office holders to demonstrate sensitivity to the acceptance of diverse cultures.
    2. Require local boards of education to develop policies designed to increase and maintain appropriate role models for children of color in schools.
    3. Lead toward implementation of effective processes for hiring and retaining people of color.
    4. Provide rewards and incentives to organizations and educational institutions exhibiting a high level of sensitivity to multicultural issues.
    5. Require the implementation of procedures for monitoring hiring and retention practices.
    6. Provide increased opportunities for people of color to participate in he decision making process.
    7. Enforce sanctions against institutions and organizations that perpetrate actions and behaviors that denigrate others.
  • To eliminate racism in educational institutions:
    1. State and federal government agencies must devote funding specifically earmarked for scholarship that seeks factual and unbiased research focused on inclusion of all people and their contributions in curriculum.
    2. It is the responsibility of the university community to join together for the reexamination and rewrite of an inclusive historical review of man's evolution.
    3. State governments must mandate that school districts utilize the "new" curriculum and provide incentives for early adoption and penalties for schools or agencies slow to address a curriculum focused on inclusion.
    4. Funds must be used to encourage institutions of higher education to reconstruct teacher education programs.
    5. School districts must develop a perspective that guards against distortion of the contributions made by various ethnic groups and the invisibility of people of color in education.
  • Help children understand and use mentors as necessary throughout their careers. 
  • Build a network of support and mentors in schools and communities for both students and minority teachers. 
  • Improve teacher and administrative inservice and staff development programs that adequately address curriculum needs and concerns of people of color. 
  • Enforce monitoring and accountability measures to ensure that adequate curriculum addressing the needs and concerns of people of color are met.
  • Make the recruitment and training of minority teachers a national priority.
  • Make educating all children a national priority, providing the financial resources necessary to achieve this goal. Eliminate the need for admissions requirements which discriminate.
  • Revise the concept of "achievement" to eliminate barriers to success, such as time limits and rigidly defined settings for learning. Make access to education more flexible, providing for leaves of absence from formal educational settings.
  • Require an ethnic studies course of all teachers in training or infuse this content into the required curriculum. Develop assessment instruments and practices which show evidence of multicultural knowledge and skills.
  • Use assessment for the diagnosis of student strengths and weaknesses as they relate to professional requirements. Assessment should be seen as a tool for developing student potential, rather than a tool for predicting success in school.
  • Make admission requirements for schools of education bias free. Requirements should be multi-faceted, including both cognitive and non-cognitive elements.
  • Validate people of color as people by having colleges of education subscribe to multicultural journals, encourage students to experience other cultures through cable television and movies, arrange exchanges for faculty and students at institutions or in communities where other cultures are numerous and require experiences where students of different social or ethnic groups interact.
            Pine and Hilliard (1989) point out, "to become moral communities that are supportive and caring, schools need to model empathy, altruism, trust, cooperation, fairness, justice, compassion, democracy, and celebration of diversity" (p. 599).

 The challenge for schools is to instill in students a value for all people regardless of color. The monograph on issues facing people of color is education offers new insights into developing acceptance, support for and celebration of diversity.

Resource List
  • Education Commission of the States. (1990). New strategies for producing minority teachers. Denver, CO: Author.
  • Education that works: An action plan for the education of minorities. Quality education for minorities project. Cambridge, MA: QEM, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, January, 1990.
  • Gursky, D. (1990, May). On the wrong track? Teacher Magazine, pp. 42-47.
  • Hatton, B. R. (1988, January). A game plan for ending the minority teacher shortage. NEA Today, 6(6), 66-69.
  • Hilliard, A. G. III. (1989, January). Teachers and cultural styles in a pluralistic society. NEA Today, 7(6), 65-69.
  • Paz, O. (1985). The labyrinth of solitude. New York: Grove.
  • Pine, G. J., & Hilliard, A. G., III. (1990). Rx for racism: Imperatives for America's schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 593-600.

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