Teacher Diversity

Fewer than half of all public school students in the nation are white, yet four out of five teachers are white. Part of the reason for this disparity is simple demographics, with there being proportionately more white adults than children. However, other factors exacerbate the problem. People of color do not earn college degrees at the same rate as whites--though those numbers are steadily improving--so fewer are eligible to teach. Fewer people of color who are college graduates consider a teaching career, and for those that do, they pass licensure tests and are hired and retained at a lower rate than their white counterparts.

Every point in this leaky pipeline must be shored up.

A Fair Chance

Feb 2019

Astonishingly high numbers of elementary teacher candidates are failing their professional licensing tests each year and candidates of color are hit hardest.

Already more likely to be disadvantaged by an inequitable system of K-12 education, only 38 percent of black teacher candidates and 57 percent of Hispanic teacher candidates pass the most widely used licensing test even after multiple attempts, compared to 75 percent of white candidates.

A Word from Kate Walsh

A Word from Kate Walsh

Achieving great diversity in the teaching profession is an important goal because we know that students benefit both academically and emotionally from having a teacher who looks like them. However, it should not supersede our first priority, the quality of the teacher. We can do both, most importantly by rectifying those factors--including debt and substandard K-12 education--preventing many students of color from finishing college.

A number of studies have surfaced benefits to student learning by matching teacher and student race. 

The response to these findings should be to double down on recruitment efforts, and also to examine what can be done to improve the experiences of black and Latino children in classrooms led by teachers who don't look like them. Disturbing research surfaces significant bias in the decisions schools and teachers make.

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The racial disparity between teachers and students is large and for Hispanic students is expected to keep growing through the year 2060, according to US Census Projections. 

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Given that the teacher workforce is 80 percent white and unlikely to shift dramatically in the near future, we can improve educational outcomes for black and Latino students by addressing the "unintended bias" on the part of all teachers. Study after study suggests that bias creeps into teachers' daily decision making in some serious ways, such as who gets assigned to a gifted program. 

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Teachers of black and Latino students are disproportionately less effective and less experienced than teachers of white children.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states must come up with a plan to address inequities in teacher assignment. States can require that school districts give more attention to this problem. NCTQ recently analyzed the quality of these state plans.

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