The school board has approved an ambitious program to recruit more Asian teachers.
Acting unanimously this week, the board ordered its staff to prepare a written plan within two months that will, among other things, set specific time limits and numbers for the recruitment of new bilingual Asian teachers.
The board also agreed to look into sponsoring a conference to encourage young Asians to pursue teaching careers, and voted to begin a training program to help Asians become teachers.
"I'm thrilled," board member Jenny Oropeza said the day after the vote at Monday's regular board meeting of the Long Beach Unified School District. "We're doing what we're really supposed to be doing, which is focusing on students to make sure that every (one of them) has a quality education."
The recommendations were contained in a report submitted earlier this month by the Asian Education Advisory Committee, a group of Asian professionals and community members set up last year to advise the district on the needs of its burgeoning Asian student population,
"The perception within the Asian community is that the district has not really been as responsive to their (Asians') needs as it (could) be," said Alan Nishio, director of educational equity/services at Cal State Long Beach and a member of the advisory committee.
The need for such responsiveness is especially great, he said, given the fact that the portion of the district's students who are Asian has risen from 2% in 1970 to about 20%--or 16,817 students--today.
Most of them are Southeast Asian immigrants who speak little English, Nishio said. Yet only 4.2% of the district's teachers are Asian, and few of them speak any of the Southeast Asian languages in which the students are fluent.
"We think this is a good initial step," Nishio said, "but this is just kind of a status report. We're pleased that the board has accepted these recommendations, but we're clearly going to be monitoring how well they're implementing them in the coming year."
During that year, he said, the committee also plans to do some brainstorming on how to get Asian parents more involved in the education of their children. "In a lot of Asian cultures," he said, "the attitude is that the teacher is the expert and the parents don't get involved."
The board dealt partly with that issue this week by adopting the recommendations of a separate committee called the Improving Parent Involvement Task Force. One of the suggestions calls for publishing notices of school functions in the native languages of the parents involved.
"All the literature supports the notion that the key component to student success is parental involvement," said Oropeza, adding that copies of the report had already been circulated among school administrators. "These are the kids who will be the leaders of our community tomorrow; either we succeed in educating them and making them productive citizens, or we fail and our community suffers the consequences."