Educator Diversity: Why It Matters & How to Make It Happen
The sad fact is that educator diversity in our nation’s public schools does not reflect the rising diversity of our student population. More than 50% of American students are people of color. Yet fewer than 20% of teachers are people of color — and that number hasn’t budged in decades. One study of Black elementary school students in North Carolina found that 50% of them did not have a single Black teacher. And the representation gap is particularly glaring for Latinos, who make up more than 25% of U.S. students, but fewer than 10% of teachers.
In their forthcoming edited volume, “Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers,” Conra Gist, an associate professor of education at the University of Houston, and Travis Bristol, an associate professor of education at the University of California at Berkeley, highlight the mountain of research on the benefits of having an ethnoracially and culturally diverse teacher workforce for all P-12 students, but particularly for students of color, who tend to thrive in classrooms led by teachers who share their racial and cultural backgrounds. Improved academic outcomes, lower suspension rates, and higher graduation rates are among the favorable outcomes that students get from exposure to teachers who share their racial and ethnic background. By embracing policies, practices, and programs that improve retainment of teachers of color and open new avenues into the profession, including Grow Your Own programs, state and district leaders can diversify their educator workforces and boost student outcomes.
As state and district leaders hire more educators of color into a still predominately White workforce, professional development and teacher support programs will need to adapt to reflect the growing diversity of the profession. Engagement in critical and racial literacy and teacher-led learning are key to creating a healthy racial climate in schools.
Educator diversity must be centered in every conversation about educational excellence from pre-K through high school graduation, and not merely a part of state and district leaders’ strategic plans. To address this issue, the editors of “The Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers” partnered with The Education Trust to develop a webinar and blog series to help disseminate research on the positive effects of teacher diversity to practitioner and policy audiences.
The first two webinars spotlight a special issue of Phi Delta Kappan, a professional journal for educators, featuring 11 research briefs and 11 teacher testimonies on educator diversity across the teacher development continuum — in recruitment, preparation, mentorship, human resource development, professional development, pedagogical and leadership practices, intersectionality, educational impact, retention, and policy, as well as at minority serving institutions.
We encourage state and district leaders and advocates to watch the full webinar series and help ensure that school systems are embracing best practices for fostering diverse learning environments and supporting educators of color. We also urge education leaders and advocates to read the upcoming blog series, in which scholars will suggest ways that schools and districts can diversify and strengthen their teacher workforce, so that students have access to the mentors and role models they need to succeed, and touch on topics like these:
- [WEBINAR] Educator Diversity: Recruitment, Retention, and Support
- [WEBINAR] Educator Diversity: Development, Identity, and Impact
- [BLOG] How the Money Spent Yearly to Recruit Replacement Teachers Could Be Better Spent on Retaining Teachers of Color
- [BLOG] Accountability for Teacher Prep Programs
- [WEBINAR] The Importance of Quality Preparation for Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers
- [BLOG] Developing Coalitions to Address Educator Diversity