First lady Michelle Obama speaks about her Reach Higher initiative to students during a visit to Atlanta's Washington High School. The program is geared toward increasing the nation's number of college graduates.
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Education secretary touts teacher diversity during Atlanta visit

During a visit Monday to Spelman College, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the country needs to increase the diversity of its teacher workforce to match the diversity of schoolchildren.

A more diverse group of teachers — including more teachers of color and male teachers — better serves all students, he said.

“This is doing the right thing for our nation,” Duncan said.

Making teaching more prestigious, providing more training for teachers, and paying good teachers more would help schools do a better job of attracting and retaining educators of all backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, he said.

“I think great teachers have to make a heck of a lot more money,” Duncan said.

And, Duncan said, the country needs to do a better job of identifying the teacher preparation programs that are producing high-performing teachers — whether those programs are traditional 4-year programs or programs that attract career-changers.

Arguing over whether alternative certification programs as a group are acceptable is “a waste of time and energy,” the secretary said.

Duncan’s comments resonated with Morehouse College senior David Johnny, who plans to teach next year at a Brooklyn charter school after graduation.

“Everything that he said were things that we’ve been having discussions about (at Morehouse),” Johnny said.

Duncan and first lady Michelle Obama came to Atlanta on Monday to launch the administration’s fifth annual back-to-school bus tour.

In the afternoon, Obama will tour a college fair at Booker T. Washington High School and then, along with Duncan, deliver remarks at a rally to promote her Reach Higher initiative, which emphasizes the importance of students completing some form of higher education.

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