Minnesota’s teacher workforce is 96 percent white, despite schools that are increasingly diverse, according to a state report released this week.

Every two years, the Minnesota Department of Education releases a report to lawmakers that examines the state’s teacher workforce with a focus on supply and demand.

The lack of racial diversity is one of the more alarming findings. While there has been a slight increase in the number of Hispanic and Asian teachers, the percentage of teachers of color in Minnesota is 3.8 percent. Of the 58,211 public schoolteachers, about 900 are Asian, 600 are black, 500 are Hispanic and 250 are American Indian, according to 2014 numbers.

The report also shows that Minnesota school districts struggle to find teachers to work with students with special needs.

The number of licensed special education teachers in 2014 was slightly down from the year before, but shows a modest increase over the past five years.

Other high-demand teaching areas include: English as a second language, early childhood special education, math, Spanish and physics.

Areas with a surplus of teachers include: K-6, physical education and high school social studies.

The authors of the report say that in addition to the lack of racial diversity in Minnesota’s teacher workforce, lawmakers should be aware that many districts say they are having a tough time finding both short-term and long-term substitute teachers.

The report also points out that teaching colleges say the current slate of testing requirements for teachers is a barrier to recruiting and preparing new teachers.

Kim McGuire

 

Two receive ‘inspired educator’ grants

Two teachers who’ve found ways to inspire Central High students to write poetry are among the winners this year of “inspired educator” grants presented by the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation.

The foundation announced this week it had issued $26,632 in grants to teachers at 13 schools.

The Central High teachers, Anthony Jacobs and Jesse Kwakenat, were repeat winners for their project, “Becoming an Author; Finding Our Voice,” which enlists a spoken-word artists to teach poetry to 10th-grade students who in turn write, publish and perform poetry of their own.

The grants are used to encourage critical thinking and artistry among students and creativity and innovation among teachers. Other efforts being funded this year include:

• The purchase of sensory materials such as light filters, pressure vests and DVDs that can be used to calm students for a return to the classroom at Dayton’s Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary, Highland Park Middle School and the Riverview West Side School of Excellence.

• An iPad-based project at Washington Technology Magnet School that will have students here and in Masaka, Uganda, use e-mail and Skype to share numerical data about their respective cultures.

• The use over seven days of a master puppeteer, Gustavo Boada, to help fifth-grade English Language Learner students at Mississippi Creative Arts create puppet shows based on their life experiences.

Anthony Lonetree