June 13, 2019

The Bulletin Board: Increasing Diversity in the Teacher Workforce

Educators for Excellence | June 2019

Whether it's student discipline disparities or opportunity gaps, race -- even when you don’t think it should -- plays a role.

And it's just as true for teaching as it is for student learning. The numbers show that ALL students, no matter their race, benefit when they have a diverse set of teachers at the front of their classrooms.

Today more than half of all public school students are students of color, yet 40% of schools do not have a single teacher of color on staff.

Forty percent. Let that soak in for a minute, then let’s talk about why this is the case.

The lack of diversity in the teaching workforce starts where you might expect it to... at the beginning.

Here's the sitch: Our educator pipeline does not reflect the diversity of our students - and that's not okay.

  • Teacher preparation programs are overwhelmingly homogeneous. In fact, a 2011 survey found that 82% of students in traditional teacher preparation programs were white, even though less than half the population of public school students are.
  • Here's another obstacle for teachers of color: they are facing implicit bias throughout their careers, from the hiring process to colleagues that just want to ignore racial discrimination.
  • Even the job isn’t fair. Educators of color are more likely to work in the most challenging environments, resulting in the highest rates of attrition in the teaching workforce.
  • How does this play out for students in the classroom? Students of color can go from kindergarten to senior year with less than a handful of role models that look like them, signaling that this is not a profession for them.
  • Couple this with the fact that students of color are more likely to attend underfunded and underperforming schools that don’t provide them with the same academic opportunities that help make teaching a viable career option.
  • Rinse and repeat.

But wait. Why does diversity in the teacher workforce actually matter?

This isn’t to say that only teachers of color can teach students of color. But this homogeneity is hurting both our profession and students.

Check out the research from the Learning Policy Institute that shows that teachers of color are more likely to set higher expectations for students of color, provide culturally relevant teaching, develop trusting relationships with students, and be able to act as cultural brokers.

There are real people behind all of these facts and figures.

Hear from Connecticut high school teacher MacArthur Cheek, who tells his story about the urgent need to get more people of color at the head of classrooms.

Tearing down the obstacles that are blocking people of color from becoming teachers is crucial. It needed to happen yesterday.

Luckily, based on MacArthur and other teachers’ recs and advocacy in Connecticut, a bill to improve educator diversity through targeted recruitment efforts is waiting for the Governor's John Hancock!

And this work to improve teacher diversity goes well beyond the Constitution state. In Minnesota, teachers inspired policies to open opportunities for more passionate Minnesotans of color to become teachers. While in Chicago, educators changed the game in their city by guaranteeing every school principal receives anti-bias training.

You’ve made it clear that this is a priority. In a poll from last month’s Bulletin Board, more than 75% of our readers said states should commit specific funding toward the recruitment, development, and retention of teachers of color.

We need to take action at the local, state, and federal level to make change.

This summer, we are bringing together classroom teachers and leaders from multiple educational organizations to define a vision on how to achieve a diverse and well-prepared teaching workforce. We know it will require many hands and many more voices to advocate on every level, including the U.S. Congress.

Will you add your voice? Sign up here to be the first to learn about the vision statement and the campaign to ensure our students benefit from a diverse set of educators.

Let us know and you’ll be the first to hear when we launch this campaign so you can help make a difference!

Meanwhile...

In next month’s issue of Bulletin Board, we’ll be diving into a topic that greatly affects teacher diversity and student learning: teacher prep. So riddle us this:

How well did your preparation program prepare you for the modern classroom, including the skills to support your students’ social and emotional well-being and administer nonpunitive discipline?

Very Well     |      Somewhat Well      |      Not Very Well      |      Not At All Well

We all know there is much to be done to build an equitable and excellent education system, and we would love for you to connect with your E4E chapter to get involved this summer, but also make sure you care for you. Get some rest, some Vitamin D, and recharge!

— The E4E Team