The number of minority students enrolled in U.S. schools and colleges is growing at a rapid rate, yet student enrollment is not matched by minority teacher representation.
In this article, I will discuss four reasons why it is important to have more minority instructors in our schools and colleges.
1. The numbers don’t match up. In K-12 schools, black and Hispanic students are two to three times more common than teachers of the same ethnicity. The gap is typically the widest in areas of the country with high percentages of students of color. Meanwhile, nearly 82 percent of public school teachers are white.
In colleges, the numbers are even more dismal. A report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that full-time faculty on college campuses heavily favors white candidates (at just over 1 million) over black (not even 100,000), Asian (86,000) and Hispanic (under 60,000) faculty. These numbers may not mean much out of context however, so let’s take a closer look at why they matter.
While nearly 30 percent of undergraduate students around the nation are considered minorities, just over 12 percent of full-time faculty are minorities. That number drops to around 9 percent for full-time professors of color. Though half of all undergraduate students are women, roughly one-third of full-time professors are women. In 1940, the number of women faculty was at 25 percent, showing just how slowly this particular minority group is climbing. The numbers are going in the right direction, but not quickly enough.
2. Minority students will perform better. Students will perform better when they can identify with and relate to their teachers. Minority teachers are in a position to put a stop to negative stereotypes and act as role models and mentors for students of color. Teachers who can relate to their students’ backgrounds usually are better able to look past biases of their abilities.
Even the research seems to support this point, as a study in Economics of Education Review tells us minority students perform better with minority teachers.
3. Minority instructors will influence the culture of the school in the long run. As far as colleges are concerned, yes, it is important to have diversity in student populations but those groups are temporary college residents. Faculty members have the long-term ability to shape the campus culture and make it more in sync with the rest of the real world. This idea can apply to K-12 schools as well.
4. Non-minority students can benefit. Increasing the number of teachers of color will help students who are not of color too. Putting minority teachers in front of children who are not minorities could prevent stereotyping and promote acceptance of diversity and equity.
The education gap is a serious obstacle our country faces - and I think that the “diversity gap” is a major part of our struggle. The education gap is staggering and it is hindering our country socially and economically. We have to find ways to get more instructors of color in our schools. Students perform better when they can relate to their teachers, and teachers who can relate to their students are less likely to have a preconceived idea of how each student will perform.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.