In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 48 percent of public school students were children of color. It also reported that 82 percent of their teachers were white. In 2016, that same report showed that 82 percent of public school teachers were white, again– a number that had barely changed in over 15 years, while public school students continued to become more diversified. What’s more, the report highlighted that every US state had a higher number of students of color than teachers of color. By 2024, 55 percent of the public school population will be made up of students of color.
What would increased diversity do for students?
In 2015, the Albert Shanker Institute released a research report that showed teacher diversity is crucial to student success. The report outlined these benefits of teacher diversity:
- Teachers of color tend to have higher academic expectations for students of color– a factor that can stimulate increased academic and social growth.
- Students of color benefit from having teachers from their own background who can serve as strong role models.
- All students benefit from being educated by teachers from a variety of ethnic groups and races; students become better prepared to succeed in an increasingly diverse society.
- Teachers of color can be more motivated to work with disadvantaged students of color in high-poverty, ethnically and racially segregated schools.
- Positive exposure to individuals from a variety of backgrounds helps to reduce stereotypes and bais, as well as to promote cross-culture social bonding.
While recruiting and retaining a diverse teacher workforce is especially key to improving outcomes for low-income and other under-served populations, increasing diversity is necessary for all students’ success. Yet there are unique barriers that teachers of color face for entering and staying in the profession.
As a national teacher shortage continues to impact the entire country, schools face new challenges of hiring and retaining qualified educators who reflect the racial diversity of their communities. To aid in this endeavor, a variety of programs, policies, and practices are being introduced to reinforce these efforts.