Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A lack of racial diversity among teachers

The U.S. Department of Education released a report today titled “The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce,” in conjunction with the National Summit on Teacher Diversity held at the Department. The report reviews trends in the diversity of elementary and secondary school educators, and examines the teacher pipeline from enrollment in postsecondary education to entrance into the teaching workforce and beyond.
The report highlights a lack of racial diversity among teachers at public elementary and secondary schools across the nation. Less than one in five U.S. public school teachers—18 percent—are individuals of color, while approximately half—49 percent—of public elementary and secondary school students are individuals of color. Since teachers of color can be positive role models for all students in breaking down negative stereotypes and in preparing students to live and work in a multiracial society, this diversity gap suggests that the U.S. public school system is not reaping the known benefits we could experience if we had greater diversity in the teacher workforce.
The report reveals decreasing diversity at multiple points across the teacher pipeline through which teachers progress through postsecondary education, teacher preparation programs, hiring, and retention. The report finds that:
  • While bachelor’s degrees are almost always a prerequisite to entering the teaching force, bachelor’s degree students are less diverse than high school graduates.  Thirty-eight percent of bachelor’s degree students were students of color, compared to 43 percent of public high school graduates.
  • Students of color are underrepresented in teacher preparation programs. Students of color made up 38 percent of the postsecondary student population, but only 25 percent of those enrolled in teacher preparation programs.
  • Bachelor’s degree completion rates for students who major in education are lower for black and Hispanic students than white students. The completion rate gap between black and white bachelor’s degree students majoring in education is approximately 30 percentage points (73 percent versus 42 percent) and the completion rate gap between Hispanic and white education majors is more than 20 percentage points (73 percent versus 49 percent).
  • The teaching workforce is overwhelmingly homogenous (82 percent white, 2 percent black males)
The report also examines programs that produce a relatively higher proportion of teacher candidates who are individuals of color. For example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) enroll a small proportion of individuals who are preparing to be teachers (2 percent), yet a significant percent of all African American teacher candidates attend HBCUs (16 percent). In addition, alternative routes to teacher certification tend to enroll more racially diverse populations of candidates than traditional teacher preparation programs. 
Lastly, the report serves as a call to action for stakeholders including postsecondary institutions, K-12 schools and districts, and others to do more to support teachers of color at all points across the teacher pipeline so that students in U.S. public schools can yield the benefits of a diverse teaching force.

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