teacher diversity

How can the U.S. increase teacher diversity?


A new report examines a handful of scenarios designed to retain more black and Hispanic teachers

Public schools often encounter diversity challenges. Minority students make up almost half of all public school students, but minority teachers account for only 18 percent of the teacher workforce.

Now, a new report from the Brookings Institution seeks to address the diversity issue and get to the root of the challenge.

Key points:

  • Attaining a diverse teacher workforce should be a long-term policy goal
  • Strategies should be put in place to help minority teachers succeed in college and remain in the classroom

The report intends to answer two questions:

  1. What will it take to achieve a national teacher workforce that is as diverse as the student body it serves?
  2. How long will it take to reach that goal?

Four key moments along the teacher pipeline are examined: college attendance and completion, majoring in education or pursuing another teacher preparation pathway, hiring into a teaching position, and staying in teaching year after year.

Next page: Four strategies that might improve diversity

Authors Hannah Putman, Michael Hansen, Kate Walsh, and Diana Quintero discovered that current and potential minority teachers disproportionately exit from the teaching pipeline at each of those four points.

For instance, 95 percent of white graduates majoring in education said they are interested in teaching, compared to 76 percent of black graduates.

White teachers remain in the classroom at slightly higher rates (93 percent) than minority colleagues (90 percent of black teachers and 92 percent of Hispanic teachers). The authors note that while those gaps are not large, they are statistically significant, and the authors estimate that the diversity gap will remain, and could grow larger.

Solving the teacher diversity gap

Retaining more black and Hispanic teachers can improve teacher diversity, especially the black diversity gap, but can’t be the only solution.

Hiring more black and Hispanic teachers does do as much to increase teacher diversity as one might think–proactive hiring strategies do little to close diversity gaps, data suggest.

Increasing the proportion of black and Hispanic college students interested in teaching could substantially increase black and Hispanic teachers. Making reasonable changes to who pursues teaching as a career could reduce both diversity gaps. The authors note that “competing forces” work against this strategy, though, including a decreasing percentage of students who indicate on their ACT they are interested in teaching.

Increasing college graduation rates for black and Hispanic college students “is far more effective at closing the diversity gap than a focus on hiring, and is more effective for Hispanic teachers (but less effective for black teachers) than a focus on retention,” the authors note.

“Achieving a diverse teacher workforce must be a long-term policy goal with a suite of long-term strategies put in place to help minorities succeed in college and to encourage them to return to the classroom to help the next generation of students,” the authors write. “Our failure to do so will keep us stubbornly in the same vicious cycle in which low teacher diversity contributes in a myriad of ways to low minority student success in K-12 and college, which results once again in low teacher diversity.”

The full report contains detailed analyses of various scenarios. Download it here.

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Laura Ascione

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