UO announces plan to increase the diversity of Oregon’s public school teachers

Oregon wants a more diverse teacher work force, and it’s requiring the state’s public institutions to help.

Oregon Legislature passed a bill last year requiring that the state make progress toward hiring more minority teachers into Oregon’s public K-12 school system. The ultimate goal is that the diversity of the state’s teachers match the diversity of the student body they serve. Because Oregon’s public universities produce a large number of in-state, qualified teachers, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission is asking all seven universities to increase minority enrollment in education departments. On April 13, UO announced its plan to do so.

“We need to do better as a college, collaborating both within the college, across our university and across universities” — Randy Kamphaus, Dean of the College of Education
Randy Kamphaus, dean of the College of Education, is spearheading the plan along with several members of COE. He told the Academic and Student Affairs Committee that he’s approaching the plan “not from the standpoint of responding to mandates, because as a research university we should be shaping and exceeding mandates of this nature.”

The plan has nine objectives, ranging from researching UO’s graduate diversity statistics to expanding COE’s educator degree options.

The most straightforward objective of the plan is to increase graduation rates of minority students in education majors. Only 15.6 percent of graduates of UO’s teaching program identified as “not-white” in 2014, according to the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

Oregon isn’t a particularly diverse state. The state is 86.6 percent white, according to the 2015 census, putting it in the top half of the list of whitest states in the country. But minority enrollment in grades K-12 has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. In 1998, minority students in K-12 made up only 16.3 percent of Oregon students. That number is now at 36.4 percent.

Teacher diversity, however, has not increased at the same rate. Teachers from minority groups currently make up 8.5 percent of Oregon’s teachers, up from 3.9 in 1998. That leaves a gap of 27.9 percentage points between teachers and students.

Another objective is to increase collaboration with programs already attempting to increase the university’s diversity. “We need to do better as a college, collaborating both within the college, across our university and across universities,” Kamphaus said.

The university also wants to increase minority faculty enrollment. Tenure-related faculty at UO are 72 percent white.

“From a demographic standpoint, we really don’t look like a faculty or a student body that’s a member of the Asian Pacific Rim organization of universities,” Kamphaus said.

ASAC received the plan well, and seemed to think it had a high probability of success. One concern was funding.

“I can’t help but pause with the irony of the legislation being passed with no fiscal note to help you accomplish these goals,” Trustee Connie Ballmer told Dean Kamphaus. “I’m wondering if there should be a focus on this, how important this is, given everything you’re trying to do in the College of Education, and given that this requires a lot of funding.”

One way the college intends to minimize costs is through collaboration. Many goals outlined in the plan overlap with goals the college already has, such as increasing the number of scholarships. Trustee Allyn Ford suggested a collaboration across the entire university.

“Looking at the objectives and goals, I would think that those would apply across the whole university,” he told ASAC.

Kamphaus will present the plan to the HECC in May. If approved, the plan is expected to be completed over five years.

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Noah McGraw

Noah McGraw

Noah is the 2016-17 Senior News Editor at the Emerald. His earliest journalistic influences were Tom Wolfe, Eric Schlosser and Batman. He loves '70s comics, '80s action movies and '90s music.