Dear Extra Credit:

In the Aug. 26 Extra, there are a number of pictures showing teachers new to Montgomery County being welcomed by Dr. [Jerry] Weast. What blew my socks off is found at the bottom of the page. It states, "About 15 percent [of the 700 new teachers] are male."

Is that number accurate? Was it the same case -- about 15 percent -- for the other counties in Maryland hiring teachers? Is that number reflective of the number of males in the pool of 5,500 applicant teachers? If more are available and of equal competency, why are they not being hired? If more are not available, why? Is this considered to be a healthy situation when about half the students are male, many of whom come from homes with no male teachers?

Robert L. Clarke

Rockville

The numbers are accurate and close to the male percentage nationally and in other counties. A 2001 federal study shows that about 25 percent of American public school teachers are male, and in Maryland the portion is about 23 percent.

Montgomery County schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison said that overall, 20 percent of public school teachers in the county are male, and that is also the percentage of males among new teachers. A spurt of last-minute male hiring raised the proportion from the 15 percent we reported in the Extra.

In Howard County, 15 percent of the teachers are male, and 19 percent of new hires are male. In Frederick County, 22 percent of all teachers are male. In Calvert County, 23 percent of all teachers, and 21 percent of new hires are male.

School administrators don't like this and wish there were more available men. Although I do not have figures on the percentage of males in the hiring pool, many school personnel officials say men have a better chance than women to be hired because districts want more male role models.

"A diversity of teachers reflecting the diversity of our students is certainly a school system goal," Harrison said, "and recruitment strategies include ways to enlarge the pool of male applicants for teaching positions as well as applicants from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds."

The reason for the shortage of male teachers is no mystery. The relatively low salary was a problem. Also, for more than a century, ambitious women were barred from nearly every other profession except teaching, and it acquired a feminine image in the culture. "Now women have many more options than teaching, but that does not mean many more men are going into teaching," said Gaynor McCown, executive director of the Teaching Commission, a New York-based nonprofit.

According to a paper provided by Melinda Anderson of the National Education Association, male teachers in elementary schools "can be stigmatized for not being able to nurture young children as well as females. It's a stereotype, but it's one that persists in society." The NEA data show that only 9 percent of elementary public school teachers are male, and that percentage has fallen regularly since 1981.

Dear Extra Credit:

You might want to give a second thought to the name of your new column. In our new standards-based Learning, Grading and Reporting policy, teachers will not be awarding extra credit.

Kathryn Esmay

instructional specialist,

Montgomery County schools

Consider it a nostalgic choice. Extra credit was the only reason I got out of the third grade.