The necessity for teacher diversity is often overlooked rather than accepted as central to school reform. High-stakes tests impede efforts to expand the pool of prospective teachers of color. And the logistics of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) continue to create significant barriers to recruiting teachers of color.
These are some of the conclusions from a new analysis on teacher diversity prepared by the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force. In its report, Assessment of Diversity in America’s Teaching Force, the Collaborative examined the relationship between educational achievement and teacher diversity, and found that increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is connected directly to closing the achievement gap of students.
The Collaborative is composed of six leading education groups: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), Community Teachers Institute (CTI), Recruiting New Teachers (RNT), and the National Education Association.
“Urban public education is the best hope for many families and children of color, whose communities and dreams are already substantially marginalized, but who are also remarkably resilient,” said CTI Executive Director Rushern L. Baker III.
“They deserve the best we can give them, and we are currently not giving them our best. Today there are too few teachers of color, too few qualified teachers and too many teachers who leave too soon.”
Some key trends
Nationally, about 17 percent of public school students are Non-Hispanic Black (NHB) and 6 percent of teachers are NHB. Likewise, about 17 percent of public school students are Hispanic and 5 percent of teachers are Hispanic.
In more than one-third (38 percent) of America’s public schools, there is not a single teacher of color on staff. Students of color tend to perform better academically, personally and socially when taught by teachers from their own ethnic groups.
In most instances, fewer than 50 percent of NHBs pass teacher entrance exams. This pattern prevails across time, location and types of tests.
The Collaborative is proposing solutions that include revising NCLB measures to clearly spell out diversity as a critical element of a “highly-qualified” teacher workforce, identifying and eliminating the obstacles faced by minority teachers in passing entry tests, and developing programs that support teachers of color both in the pipeline and in the classroom.