CLEVELAND - Minority teachers continue to be underrepresented in Ohio classrooms while the state`s minority student population grows, a new study found.
Only about 6 percent of the state`s teaching force is made up of minorities, according to a study released by the Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina.
The Ohio Department of Education says about 14 percent of Ohio`s nearly 2 million public school students are minorities, and the number is growing.
As the gap between minority students and teachers widens, schools across the state are struggling to attract and keep diverse staff members. Ohio`s highest concentration of black and Hispanic teachers are in urban districts, but the numbers are not close to matching student enrollments.
"It`s an absolute crisis," said Harold Brown of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which specializes in education reform issues. "It`s really bleak, especially in terms of African-American males going into teaching."
A better representation of minority teachers might help reverse the disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic students who are suspended and expelled, education industry experts said. Minority students are also over-represented in special education programs and underrepresented in honors and Advanced Placement classes.
A diverse teaching and administrative staff in schools also give minority children authority figures who look like them.
James Stallworth, a former Cincinnati math teacher, now is an instructor and role model for future minority math teachers at the Southwest Ohio Secondary Teaching Academy, a partnership funded by the Ohio Board of Regents involving the universities of Cincinnati, Miami, and Xavier and the public school systems in Cincinnati and Princeton.
"As an African-American, a male and a math teacher, I almost feel an obligation to get more people interested in teaching," he said.
Ohio joins a nationwide trend of declining percentages of minority teachers since the 1970s. Ohio`s minority figures are just slightly below the national average of 7 percent.