Essay: Promoting Diversity in Education

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Promoting Diversity in Education

Diversity in Education HR

Promoting Diversity in Education: A Human Resources Perspective

Today's learning community is changing rapidly, and one of the most significant shifts is the widely expanding diversity among school populations. As global and virtual learning increases, educators find themselves teaching groups with highly varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, economic situations, and learning styles. Because this shift is likely to be fundamental and permanent, I believe it is critical that educational administrators and HR professionals ensure that their faculty and staff support, encourage, and are representative of the diversity present in their classrooms and schools.

The education environment has changed drastically since I began my own educational journey. One of the biggest changes is the amount of ethnic and cultural diversity in the classroom. In the mid-1980s, roughly one out of four children in the public school system was classified as a minority. By some estimates, the ratio of minority students in public classrooms in 2026 is predicted to be roughly three out of four (Parker 2003). I have witnessed this rapid increase in multiculturalism as a student, and have also witnessed the growing pains of the school systems as they struggle to integrate a variety of languages and backgrounds into their teaching methods and administration.

In addition to ethnic and cultural diversity, there has also been a sharp increase in religious diversity in the classroom during the last fifty years. This is especially true of college classrooms, as higher education in the United States has become more accessible and desirable to international students with a broader variety of religious backgrounds than the general population of the United States. For example, both the Muslim population within the U.S. And the percentage of Muslim students in the American educational system nearly doubled in the last decade of the 20th century (Cole & Ahmadi 2010). Not only has religious diversity increased, but the importance of religious diversity and discourse to students has increased as well, with several researchers finding that "religious identity and engagement have become more important to this generation of college students" than the generations preceding them (Ibid). This means that teachers and administrators are increasingly responsible for guiding, regulating, and promoting appropriate religious discourse within academic arenas while maintaining the open and tolerant environment necessary for effective learning.

Because of these changing demographics, the increasing presence of all types of diversity in today's classroom has created a pressing need for educational Human Resources professionals to develop the appropriate support, training, and resources to assist teachers and staff with acknowledging and incorporating this diversity. Failure to do so will, I believe, severely underserve the students and parents who rely on equal access to education for all, and will prevent teachers with the best intentions from having the tools necessary to create successful multicultural classrooms. It is for this reason that I am interested in pursuing research on administrative strategies for diversity in education, and incorporating that research into my own future as an educational leader.

The successful development and implementation of a diversity-focused Human Resources program requires careful consideration and leadership on the part of educational HR administrators. Effectively addressing diversity from an educational HR standpoint requires focus on two fronts: a conscientious recruiting program that seeks to develop a faculty and staff that reflects the variety of the student body; and an appropriate training and resources program to educate faculty and staff on current diversity regulations and best practices. Because of the complexities of both of these approaches, the educational administrator in charge of implementing these programs must have a broad range of leadership skills in order to organize, inspire and educate about diversity.

Developing a hiring strategy to promote diversity within faculty and staff is a key component of creating a diversity-friendly educational organization, but it requires a great deal of knowledge and sound judgment on the part of administrators. The lack of diversity among faculty in k-12 public education is startling in comparison to the depth of diversity among the students. In an article for USA Today in July of 2003, Greg Puppo reported that, while classroom diversity had skyrocketed in the last decades of the 20th century, teacher demographics had hardly changed at all. "While public school students have grown much more diverse," he wrote, "schools still rely overwhelmingly on white women to teach them. And despite decades of efforts to attract more minorities and men, they simply aren't stepping into the frame" (qtd. In Smith 2009).

This dearth of diversity in the labor market leaves educational HR administrators in a tough spot when developing a diversity-based hiring initiative. However, ensuring diversity among teachers has been proven to be instrumental in student success and retention in diverse student bodies. Nicholas Shudak (2010) asserts that children "cannot give meaning to their lives when they do not see themselves represented in the institutions that comprise the larger cultural context that surrounds them," including their school environments. Therefore, an educational HR administrator must be committed and creative when finding sources of diverse labor. Fortunately, advocacy groups for minority populations are just as dedicated to placing minority employees in the teaching profession, and offer a number of resources for the HR professional to use when recruiting diverse educators.

Having the commitment and resources to hire a diverse teaching staff is only one of several skills the educational HR administrator must possess to be successful in recruiting, however. They must have a strong knowledge base of the federal, state, and local regulations involving equal employment opportunities and affirmative action policies. They must also have a keen sense of judgment when hiring. Developing a hiring program that seeks to broaden the representation of diverse races, genders, religions, and ethnic backgrounds requires a delicate balance of recruiting potential employees based upon these characteristics while being careful not to hire based upon them. The HR administrator must tread this line with a great deal of care, always cognizant of the legal and ethical implications of the process.

While recruiting diverse faculty and staff is important for creating a successful multicultural educational environment, it is not the only essential element. Both new and current faculty and staff must also receive training that gives them the tools and resources they need to create an effective learning environment for a diverse group. While many teacher education programs are now focusing on multicultural literacy as part of education programs, this focus is relatively recent and is not yet consistent or pervasive. This means that the educational HR administrator must take the initiative in developing and providing diversity training within the organization itself.

Realizing that diversity training must be a compulsory element of teacher professional development is the first step. Devising a training program that both inspires and educates teachers who may already have deep-seated attachments to their teaching philosophies and practices is the second and more difficult step. This requires the administrator to have not only a solid body of research indicating best practices, but also a well-considered and sensitive approach to what may be a divisive and emotional issue for some teachers.

Unfortunately, much of the current research in the field of diversity training for teachers focuses on higher education. Not many studies have been done on effective ways to train k-12 teachers in the public school system when it comes to diversity. One particular challenge to this research is how much the definition of diversity within a particular school system relies on context. The school system in one area may be concerned primarily with socio-economic diversity, while another may be more focused on ethnic or linguistic diversity. Math and English departments may need more specialized training in gender diversity to ensure non-biased teaching and evaluating methods for both male and female students, while the History department may need specialized training in religious diversity. Because of these complexities, the Centre for Educational Research and Development, an international organization devoted to educational research, advises that teacher training be geared towards "principles to guide classroom practices rather than specific practices themselves" (2010).

There are some resources available to the educational HR professional developing a teacher and staff diversity training program. For instance, SEDL (formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory), a nonprofit educational research center in Texas, hosts training conferences and provides training material related to all types of diversity initiatives, especially for public schools. The Anti-Defamation League offers some detailed material as well, particularly for religious diversity training. Some states, such as Oregon, have also developed state-wide training programs to address a broad range of diversity issues. The tools are out there, but the educational leader must be both dedicated and resourceful to develop a diversity training program appropriate for their school or school system.

I see evidence of both the need for diversity programs and the difficulty in creating and implementing them in my job as an instructional assistant in a public middle school. The need is obvious. In my rural school district, the percentage of minority students is about 38%, but I… [END OF PREVIEW]

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