Every day, America becomes more diverse. So, too, do its public schools.
Children of color account for half of all public school students, and that number is expected to rise in the coming years, according to Education Week.
Unfortunately, our public school teacher ranks do not reflect the same trend toward diversity—not by a long shot.
A new report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution finds that just 18 percent of America’s teachers are people of color. The report’s authors contend that the “diversity gap” among classroom teachers contributes to the persistent “achievement gap” between white and minority students.
Problems: Both systemic and local
For a lot of education experts, the teacher minority gap reported by Brookings is no surprise. In recent months, the U.S. Department of Education and several school districts have ramped up efforts to recruit and hire minority teachers. But, as Education Week reports, those efforts have largely fallen short.
The Brookings report identifies four major problems facing teacher recruitment in this country.
- A smaller proportion of minority students graduate from college
While the distribution of students entering college mirror the population at large, Hispanic and African-American students disproportionately fail to earn a college degree. This reflects a larger systemic problem, one that echoes the achievement gap in K12 schools.
- Minority students show less interest in teaching careers
Seven percent of Caucasian college students major in education, compared with just 4 percent of minority students. Caucasian students also pursue teaching careers at a higher rate compared with minority students.
- Minority teachers are hired at lower rates than Caucasian teachers
Brookings identifies several factors that contribute to the teacher minority gap. Poor teacher recruitment and the availability of other careers are two reasons, according to Brookings.
- Minority teachers are retained at lower rates than Caucasian teachers
Minority teachers leave the teaching profession faster and more often than Caucasian teachers, for several reasons. For one, a higher percentage of minority teachers work in poor, urban school districts.
What can districts do to close the gap?
Getting more minority students interested and engaged in the teaching profession is the first step.
Writes Brookings: “The chances of success for districts’ laudable goals to build a teaching corps that mirrors their student populations crumble in the face of reality—even looking forward nearly fifty years. While that harsh truth certainly doesn’t excuse districts to give up and resign themselves to a mostly white teaching force, it does suggest that districts must embrace and promote a range of other, more immediately viable solutions.”
Is your school or district taking steps this school year to diversify its teaching corps? Beyond recruiting and hiring more minority teachers, are you doing anything to encourage more students to pursue teaching as a profession?
As you hire and recruit new minority teachers, are you providing them with enough career enrichment to keep them engaged and happy?
Do you invite feedback and openly listen to teachers’ concerns?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it might be time to rethink how you approach teacher engagement in your schools.
Looking for a few good ways to better engage teachers and close that minority gap? Here’s three ways to engage your teachers in constructive conversations.