September 12, 2019

Teachers and Education Leaders Unite on Shared Call to Action to Strengthen Teacher Diversity

September 12 (New York)As presidential candidates offer their plans to diversify the teaching workforce, Educators for Excellence (E4E) teachers and a dozen education nonprofit and advocacy organizations today released a unified call to action outlining their shared vision to improve teacher diversity and break down barriers preventing all promising teacher candidates from entering and thriving in the profession.

Despite ample research that outcomes are improved for all students, especially for students of color, when they have a diverse set of well-prepared teachers at the front of their classrooms, four out of five teachers identify as white and 77% as female, while more than half of public school students are students of color. In fact, 40% of public schools across our country do not have a single teacher of color on staff. 

This call to action is one piece of Reimagine, Represent, E4E’s national campaign to build a talented and diverse teaching profession. The organization is asking individual supporters to sign on to this letter to show their support for the outlined principles. 

Visit the campaign hub at e4e.org/reimagine-represent.

Teachers quoted below led a discussion last month in Washington, D.C. between coalition members to finalize the call to action:

"Students recognize the power of a leader that looks like them,” said E4E-Chicago member Kallie Jones, a first-grade teacher at McDowell Elementary. “In our vastly diverse academic institutions, teachers offer an amazing opportunity to build relationships with parents and students who are different from them. As a black female teacher in a predominantly black school, I make it a priority to empower all my students to be their best selves academically and socially. 

"My first year of teaching, I struggled to manage my students’ behavior and invest them in learning. I felt like I was thrown to the wolves,” said E4E-Connecticut member Syeita Rhey-Fisher, a fourth-grade teacher at Achievement First. “I only survived by finding a caring, talented mentor who was kind enough to help me and my kids. That’s why I’m excited this call to action specifically highlights ‘giving all teachers structured support from their peers early in their careers, including opportunities that allow educators with similar backgrounds who encounter similar challenges to learn from each other.’”

"I’m most looking forward to continuing open and honest conversations with students, practitioners and advocates who can bring together a wealth of knowledge and opinions,” said E4E-New York member Rachael Goeler, a special education high school teacher at P233Q. “Bringing all our strengths and experiences to the table will allow us to use this call to action to create and advocate for specific recommendations that will make a real difference for aspiring teachers and the students we serve.”

Below are quotes from coalition members:

“Research shows that students taught by teachers of the same race, on average, perform better in the classroom,” said Scott Sargrad, Vice President of K-12 Education at the Center for American Progress. “Regrettably, while a majority of America’s public school students are nonwhite, just one in five teachers are people of color. We’re calling on policymakers to take bold action to improve teacher diversity by reducing the financial barriers to becoming a teacher and doing more to support them once they join the profession.”

We are aligned with this call for an immediate, sustained and thoughtful approach to the diversification of our teachers,” said Sharif El-Mekki, Director of the Center for Black Educator Development. “Qualified, diverse teachers elevate the entire profession and improve teacher efficacy and student outcomes. Students who see themselves in their teachers see themselves as teachers. At CBED, we feel this same sense of urgency where we are working to ensure equity and effectiveness in the recruitment, preparation, hiring, development and retention of quality teachers that are reflections of and aligned with our students in Philadelphia and across the nation.”

“As an organization committed to evidence-based research and policy solutions, the Data Quality Campaign knows that a diverse teacher workforce is fundamentally good for students,” said Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, President and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign. “But we can’t make real change without data. States, education preparation programs and school leaders all need information to make a diverse teacher workforce happen for the benefit of student success.”

“Since its inception, our education system has excluded people of color from leadership roles, reinforcing a racist, hegemonic culture for our children,” said Shavar Jeffries, President of Education Reform Now. “We cannot undo this injustice overnight, but by making the bold and necessary changes to recruit, prepare and retain educators of color, we can begin to break the cycle and send a powerful message of belonging and possibility to all of our students.”

“Research shows the importance of having black and Latino educators. They not only serve as role models and advocates for students of color but they do so for all students. These teachers expose their pupils to different cultures, books by diverse authors and new ways of thinking about their world,” said Lynn C. Jennings, Ph.D., Senior Director of National and State Partnerships at The Education Trust. “To truly give all students, particularly those of color, the opportunity to learn in an engaging and robust classroom, policymakers need to act now to diversify the teaching workforce.”

“Research shows the importance of having black and Latino educators. They not only serve as role models and advocates for students of color but they do so for all students. These teachers expose their pupils to different cultures, books by diverse authors and new ways of thinking about their world,” said Lynn C. Jennings, Ph.D., Senior Director of National and State Partnerships at The Education Trust. “To truly give all students, particularly those of color, the opportunity to learn in an engaging and robust classroom, policymakers need to act now to diversify the teaching workforce.”

The members of our coalition have each been working to increase the diversity of the teaching profession, but we recognized the need to come together, work with classroom teachers and develop a unified vision,” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Educators for Excellence. “This call to action is the culmination of that work, a public declaration of the vision for our teaching workforce set forth by a diverse coalition including educators. And we will advocate for these principles until our teachers are as diverse as our students.

“Our current educator pipeline begins in the classroom. When students of color see teachers of color in front of their classrooms and as leaders in their schools, teaching becomes a viable profession,” said Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “We believe that the following principles and policies will drive us toward the outcomes we need to ensure that we have a teacher workforce that is well-prepared and reflects the diversity of our students across the country.”

"Our nation would greatly benefit from improving the preparation, recruitment, and retention of all strong teachers--but the wide diversity gap between students and teachers brings particular urgency to this work for teachers of color," said Melissa Tooley, Director of PreK-12 Educator Quality at New America. 

“All children deserve to have diverse models of intellectual leadership in schools and teachers who believe in their limitless potential,” said Mohan Sivaloganathan, CEO of Students for Education Reform. “The diversity gap between students of color and an over-representation of white teachers can be traced back as far as Brown v. Board, which integrated schools but resulted in the firing of thousands of highly credentialed black educators. From discriminatory hiring practices to redlining neighborhoods, racism was codified into law and now we must systematically undo its harmful effects; starting with better preparing, hiring and retaining more teachers of color.” 

“Realizing educational equity and excellence for all students requires a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusiveness in every aspect of our work,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach for America. “Ensuring children can see themselves in their teachers matters for their academic outcomes. Diversity in the classroom helps all students learn to work across lines of difference and prepare to succeed in the world today. Teach For America has worked to achieve greater diversity in education—today over 50% of corps members identify as a person of color—and we join with those calling to make diversity in the teaching workforce a national priority.”

Read the call to action at e4e.org/call-action-increasing-teaching-workforce.

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