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Higher-Education Groups Urge U.S. to Make Teaching of Global Affairs a Priority

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Monday, May 13, 2002

The American Council on Education and 33 other higher-education groups hope to put the goal of improving Americans' knowledge of foreign languages, policy, and culture near the top of the national agenda and are releasing a 28-page plan today that maps out their priorities.

The higher-education officials argue that the events of September 11 and its aftermath have highlighted the United States' shortfalls in making enough of its citizens proficient in world affairs. Congress, they say, has long underfinanced programs that foster international education, such as foreign-language training and fellowship programs that send scholars overseas. They add that colleges also need to improve undergraduate courses in international affairs and foreign languages, especially in non-European languages, and work to encourage more students to enroll in them.

"The global transformations of the last decade have created an unparalleled need in the United States for expanded international knowledge and skills," the report says. "Over the last several decades, however, expanding needs, rising costs, and declining investments in international and foreign-language training have led the United States to a dangerous shortfall of individuals with global competence."

The groups say that the federal government should provide greater increases than President Bush has proposed for Education Department programs, such as the Fulbright-Hays fellowship, that support the study of foreign languages and cultures. For the 2002 fiscal year, Congress provided a record 26-percent increase for those programs, bringing federal appropriations to $98.5-million. But the president has requested a smaller, 4-percent increase for the 2003 fiscal year.

In the report, the higher-education officials note that federal spending on international higher-education and academic-exchange programs under the Education, State, and Defense Departments combined represents less than 1 percent of all federal appropriations for higher education. Those programs received a total of $280-million in federal funds in the 2002 fiscal year. And the officials add that the federal government has an interest in training more people to be fluent in a wide array of foreign languages. A General Accounting Office report released in March detailed how four federal agencies -- the Army, the Department of Commerce's Foreign Commercial Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the State Department -- suffered from shortages, during the 2001 fiscal year, of employees fluent in certain key languages.

The groups also urge in the report that the United States rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization as a way to give scholars more opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues around the world. The federal government withdrew from the Paris-based group in 1984 because of concerns over management practices and overspending.

Meanwhile, the report says colleges should promote more research on international topics and make sure their curriculums in all fields include courses that foster cross-cultural understanding and help students understand the international dimension to the subjects in which they are majoring. Colleges also need to help recruit and educate more and better foreign-language teachers for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions, the groups add. And, they need to try to make study-abroad opportunities affordable to students of a wider array of economic backgrounds.

The report notes that less than 1 percent of the nation's 15 million college students studied abroad last year. And the groups say that less than 8 percent of undergraduate students enrolled at American institutions are taking a foreign-language class in any given semester. The average person who takes a foreign-language class sticks with it for two or three semesters, they add.

"The United States must invest in an educational infrastructure that produces knowledge of languages and cultures," says David Ward, president of the American Council on Education. "We must be able to train over time a sufficient and diverse pool of American students to meet the needs of government agencies, the private sector, and education."



Foreign Teachers Find a Place in US Schools...



The Christian Science Monitor



When students across the United States head back to school this fall, many will find teachers from places like the Philippines, India - even Russia - standing in front of the blackboard.


US school districts are confronting a severe shortage of qualified teachers. A booming economy, along with relatively low teacher salaries and sometimes difficult working conditions, is making recruitment ever more challenging.


At the same time, schools are under increasing pressure to meet higher standards and keep classes small. So recruiters staring at thousands of unfilled slots - largely in math, science, and bilingual classes - are turning their focus abroad, mostly to countries that have a surplus of educators.


Supporters of such programs say they're a viable solution to finding qualified instructors. They add that the diversity foreigners bring to the classroom can only benefit students.


But critics say recruiting abroad is a short-term fix that could harm learning and result in wasted effort. Educators unaccustomed to inner-city challenges - or to American students and teaching styles - may be ineffective or get homesick and leave.


"I think that the practice ... is at best a temporary solution to a long-term problem," says Segun Eubanks, spokesman for the National Education Association in Washington. "There is no shortage of people who, if given the right [incentives], would be happy to teach in our schools."


Many schools are already offering US educators signing bonuses or housing discounts, and have reached beyond local markets to advertise nationally.


But recruiters in large districts in California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Chicago are also offering visas under temporary exchange programs, as well as "emergency" H1-B visas like those issued to ease shortages of high-tech workers. These later offer an option for citizenship.


"We need math teachers, and we can't wait. We have students that are losing out because we don't have these individuals," says Carlos Ponce, director of human resources for Chicago Public Schools. "I'm sure that there will be some cultural differences and adjustments made. But what's the alternative - not having anybody in those children's class?"


The district hired 43 teachers from overseas. Because Chicago has a "critical shortage" of educators, the INS agreed to provide 50 H1-B visas each year. After about six years, the district can sponsor teachers permanently. Mr. Ponce notes that instructors must pass a skills test and speak fluent English. "They are coming from some of the best schools," he says.


For Michele Dupont, who came to Chicago from France in June, teaching here means improving her English and learning about American culture.


"I don't miss France. I'm eager to start my job," she says. With five years of education experience, she was offered a position as a high school French teacher.


Though incentives offered to foreign instructors are the same as those offered to domestic ones, districts usually also cover immigration costs, which can run about $1,000 a teacher over a few years. Ms. Dupont notes that higher salaries in the US are an added bonus. "I love this country. I would very much like to stay," she says.


Dupont's sense of ease is not always characteristic of teachers who, often, move from small towns to large cities. In Dallas, educators from Mexico and the Philippines left because they didn't feel comfortable, says Linda Davis of Dallas public schools.


They were well-qualified, she says, but many were used to managing classrooms differently and found US students disrespectful. They also had trouble passing a mandatory state test. The district would now rather spend its money to retain teachers and recruit locally.


"Regardless of how experienced a teacher is, it takes them at least six months to adjust to American culture ... Foreign recruits are trying to find a house, rent an apartment, ... buy a car," says Edda Caraballo of the California Department of Education, which has hired more than 400 instructors temporarily over the past three years. Los Angeles also plans to hire Filipino and Canadian teachers this fall.


Critics also worry that because these educators don't yet have a full certificate, the rush to issue temporary certificates hurts students. "Fully credentialed teachers have a much stronger impact on student learning," Eubanks says. Foreign teachers may be very qualified, but the experience overseas doesn't [always] translate."


But at the Houston Independent School District - where the city is struggling to hire close to 400 teachers even as classes start - recruiting abroad is at an all-time high. Their need has been partially met by more than 50 math and science teachers from the Philippines, says Jo Nell Drayden, manager of employment at the Houston Independent School District. She's pleased with the Filipinos' high work ethic, English skills, and training that is equivalent to US standards.


"I see a person coming from a different culture offering special talents, different insights," she says. The district plans to interview math and science teachers in Russia for next year.


As educators move into their retirement years and immigrants push enrollments up, urban school districts will likely continue to tap into teacher surpluses overseas, recruiters say.


In addition, they're devising attractive Web sites and turning to sites like, where teachers worldwide can post résumés for free and members can access them from anywhere.


"We are moving toward a world economy," Ponce says. "How wonderful for students to learn from someone from Russia, Africa, India, China...."



Cleveland Schools to Recruit Teachers from India

March 21, 2001, WASHINGTON (Reuters)

The Cleveland, Ohio, school district has decided to recruit mathematics and science teachers in India after searching the 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, according to Urban Educator, the newsletter of the Council of the Great City Schools.

The city's recruitment team plans to visit four cities in India, which were not named in the article.

The newsletter quotes Carol Hauser, the Cleveland school district's human resources director, as saying that of 1,200 teacher candidates interviewed in 2000, only 45 were certified in mathematics and science.

"Those statistics alone were the 'handwriting on the wall' that convinced me of the need to recruit abroad," Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's chief executive officer, told Urban Educator. "It's a crisis. People are going to really have to explore other forms of recruitment."

Byrd-Bennett said Cleveland's publicly-funded schools, will need 850 teachers this year. The school district has 77,000 students.

"Demand for classroom teachers in the nation's urban schools has reached critical proportions, primarily in special education, mathematics and science, with shortages projected to continue through the next five years," the newsletter reported.

The shortage is part of a larger national shortage of teachers documented by former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, who said last year that two million teachers would be needed by 2010. The number needed was set at 2.l million by Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

According to the newsletter, Cleveland will use the Teachers Placement Group for its recruitment efforts in India; the company has been approved by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Education.

The newsletter also reported that the Anne Arundel County, Maryland school district sent a team to India last spring to seek teachers.

The Council of the Great City Schools is a Washington consulting organization which represents 56 of the nation's largest urban school districts, including New York City and Los Angeles.



Foreign Teachers Fill Shortages in U.S. Educational System


September 6, 2001, US Visa News 


School districts across the United States are increasingly hiring foreign teachers to fill the gaps left by the current projected drought of qualified American teachers, according to Reuters.

As more and more teachers retire or leave the profession looking for more lucrative jobs, school districts are finding that they do not have enough of a supply of teachers to fill all the vacancies. Their solution? Import the teachers from abroad!

The foreign teachers, on their end, are attracted to the jobs because of the opportunity to enter and work in the U.S. and because of the cash and signing bonuses available for teaching certain subjects or teaching in some lower-income areas.

Chicago, for example, reached an agreement with immigration authorities to permit a certain number of special visas each year to combat the "critical shortage" in math, science, and language teachers in the United State's third largest school district. As an administrator in the Chicago school system pointed out to Reuters, the search for qualified teachers has gone global and the Internet has become a very useful recruitment tool. The effort resulted in the hiring of forty foreign teachers who were assigned to some of the city's neediest schools.

Similar recruitment efforts are also going on in New York, Maryland, Ohio, and California, according to the Reuters report.