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OP-ED: Our Schools Need Latino


By Francisco Ortiz, Kimberly Mayfield

Lynch and Kitty Kelly Epstein

OP-ED: Our Schools Need Latino

By postnewsgroupPosted February 24, 2015 10:18 am
By Francisco Ortiz, Kimberly Mayfield Lynch and Kitty Kelly Epstein
Marisol, a very effective Bay Area high school teacher, says that she never had a
Latino teacher until she was in the 10th grade.
Having a Latino teacher made me much more positive about education and
caused me to think about teaching, she said.
Marisols experience is not unusual. 53 percent of students and only 18% percent
of teachers in California public schools are Latino. There are schools in the Bay
Area, which have hundreds of Latino children and not a single Latino teacher.
Currently, one of the authors of this article, Mr. Ortiz, is the only Spanishspeaking Latino teacher for the entire upper-elementary grades (4-6) at his school.
He says, I am able to effectively communicate with the newcomer students in my
classroom, as well as other newcomer students in grades 4-6, something which
may not always be possible for monolingual English-speaking teachers.
Although I teach sixth grade, he continues, parents from other classrooms say
they hope that their children will be my students in the future. Kids from grades 25 often see me in the halls and express their excitement to be in my classroom.
Latino students want to succeed. Whether its cultural capital, linguistic capital or
a combination of both that allow Latino students to feel more empowered and
confident through having Latino teachers, this ever growing and crucially
important resource should not be ignored, especially since the Latino population is
the fastest growing ethnic group in Californias schools, he said.
Asian, white and Black students also need Latino teachers to share their language,
along with their cultural and global wisdom.
Some authors treat the lack of Latino teachers as a problem of recruitment, and
some have even argued that Latinos are not interested in becoming teachers.

In reality there are many barriers that stand in the way of Latinos earning the
teaching credential. Standardized tests continue to be a significant barrier for
Latinos entering the teaching profession.
Due to the racial wealth gap, many Latino families are challenged by the high fees
for the assessments and by the requirement of many programs that candidates
work for free as a student teacher.
Another barrier for Latinos who have English as a second language is the writing
section of the standardized assessment. Test takers are required to write all
responses in English.
Although Spanish is the first language for 40 percent of California students, there
is absolutely no credit given for Spanish fluency in fulfilling the requirements for
Additionally, traditional recruitment strategies are often not effective for recruiting
Latinos. Recruitment of college graduates and career-changers through
community-based organizations is more effective than the traditional bureaucratic
In our view the recruitment of teachers of color is a far better way to improve
American schools and stabilize the teaching force than the over-testing of
everybody, which is currently the favorite project of many policy-makers.
Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch is chair of Black Women Organized for Political
Action and chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University.
Francisco Ortiz is a Bay Area teacher and a graduate student researching issues
of Latino teacher recruitment.
Kitty Kelly Epstein hosts Education Today on KPFA FM and writes on issues
involving education and urban policy. (A Different View of Urban Schools
(2012) Peter Lang).