Research Grant Recruiting & Retaining Male Teachers in Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS)

Few researchers have chosen to focus on the need for more males in the teaching force. The scarcity of male teachers as student role models is a subject of concern at all levels, but it is of particular concern in the early grades (Wood and Hoag, 1993).

It has long been understood that male and minority faculty members are often scarce in both public and independent elementary schools. While one can trace this phenomenon to the matriarchal primary education system of previous centuries, it nevertheless remains curious that schools have not been successful in changing this homogeneity, especially in light of nationwide efforts to increase diversity throughout our schools. School leaders must understand the underlying psychological, sociological, and economic factors which contribute to this situation in elementary education, and they must explore the potential benefits of building a more diverse faculty.

After examining the body of recent research on the shortage of male and minority teachers at the elementary level, I propose an in-depth study of the issue as it relates directly to the 252 member institutions of the Southern Association of Independent Schools. Through a series of surveys, visits, and personal interviews, the research will seek answers to the following four fundamental questions:

Given that men and minorities represent a small percentage of elementary/ lower school faculties,

I. Why aren't qualified male and minority elementary-level teachers seeking and/or accepting positions at independent schools?

II. What benefits-particularly with respect to student learning-would independent schools experience if increased numbers of male and minority teachers were part of our elementary/ lower schools?

III. What must independent schools do in order to attract and retain qualified male and minority teachers at the elementary school level?

IV. What schools can already be identified as "success stories"? How did they achieve diversity among their elementary school faculty? What can other schools seeking to accomplish the same goals learn from them?

The initial phase of this project will involve collecting and analyzing national and SAIS-specific data regarding the numbers of men and minorities in elementary school teaching positions. This data gathering will include surveys and interviews of prospective teachers at colleges and universities throughout the region. Are qualified male and minority elementary teachers more likely to seek positions at public or independent schools? What other factors-professional, social, financial, etc.-contribute to such low percentages at the elementary level?

The second phase of the project will deal with the potential benefits that an independent school may reap as a result of hiring and retaining qualified male and minority elementary school teachers. While analysis of student performance and feedback will be one means of determining such benefits, surveys and personal interviews will also be conducted with students, teachers, administrators, and parents in order to gauge the quality of each school's professional atmosphere and school culture.

The third phase of the project will outline what steps progressive independent schools must take in the coming years to attract more diverse elementary school faculties. If SAIS member schools can enhance their professional staff in this way in the coming years, they will not only continue to provide the best possible educational experience for an increasingly diverse student population, but they will also remain viable contenders in an increasingly competitive educational market.

The final phase of research will focus on selected independent schools which have already been successful in attracting and retaining qualified male and minority teachers at the elementary level. Through school visits and personal interviews with students, teachers, parents, and administrators, I intend to trace the ways in which these schools have addressed specific challenges and ultimately share that information with member schools interested in effecting similar change at their own institutions.

Upon the completion of this project, SAIS member schools would benefit from continuing to share ideas and information about realizing the benefits of a diverse elementary school faculty. To facilitate this ongoing cooperative effort, Athens Academy would serve as the site of a symposium for teachers and administrators from independent schools throughout the region.

By providing our youngest students with a variety of perspectives and approaches, we provide them with the greatest opportunity for success. Teachers and administrators actively involved in a diverse professional atmosphere can be reinvigorated by an exchange of new ideas. Finally, this study can serve to educate and inform trustees as they work to ensure a positive direction for their schools. These key leaders must remain keenly aware of the need to foster diverse learning communities and to allocate their schools' resources in such a way that it becomes a reality.

Patrick Cuneo
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Athens Academy
P.O. Box 6548
Athens, Georgia 30604
(706) 549-9225
pcuneo@athensacademy.org