Dozens of education leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for a diverse teacher workforce.
The U.S. Department of Education hosted the meeting in conjunction with the release of a new report, titled The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce.
According to the report, teachers of color represent about 18 percent of the workforce—at a time when minorities comprise a majority of public school students. Black male teachers represent just 2 percent.
“A diverse teacher workforce isn’t just a nicety—it’s a real contributor to better outcomes in our schools, workplaces, and communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John King in a statement.
In his opening remarks at the summit, King said the “evidence is clear about diversity.” Teachers of color serve as role models to students who look like them. Those teachers also have high expectations of their students. King said it’s also important for White students to see teachers and leaders of color. “The issue of diversity is about making America better,” he stated.
Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard said her organization is committed to developing a diverse teacher workforce. “We know great teachers come from all backgrounds, but we also believe that teachers who share the background of their students have the potential to make a profound additional impact,” she commented.
Much of this lack of diversity stems from insufficient numbers of Black and Hispanics in the teacher pipeline. At the same time, Black and Hispanic education majors have a significant graduation gap compared to White students pursuing an education degree. According to Education Department data, there’s a 30 percentage point completion gap for Black education majors, and Hispanics have a 20 percent graduation gap with their White peers.
Secretary King said historically Black colleges and universities have done “disproportionate work for decades” in producing teachers of color. Data from his department says HBCUs train just 2 percent of teachers, but produces 16 percent of African-American educators.
King also addressed the challenge of retaining those teachers already in the workforce. He pointed to the poor conditions that teachers in Detroit face as an example of why many are leaving the profession.
He also urged administrators to provide more resources when they volunteer teachers of color to lead diversity initiatives. And too often, he said, the few Black male teachers on staff are tasked with managing Black students with behavioral issues.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten added her union’s support. She echoed what others said about teachers of color serving as role models, adding that there’s much ahead.
SOURCE: The Department of Education | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty