Equity & Diversity

The Latino Teacher-Student Divide: 5 Steps to Close the Gap

By Corey Mitchell — November 01, 2019 4 min read
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Latino students are the largest ethnic group in U.S. public schools, representing 25 percent of the overall population.

Yet, Latinos make up only 9 percent of the nation’s teaching corps.

While demographic gaps exist between all nonwhite student populations and teachers, the gap for Latinos is the largest, a new report from New America’s Education Policy Program shows.

Despite the fact the number of K-12 Latino teachers has more than quadrupled over the last three decades, the growth has not kept pace with the rise in student population.

The report, Paving the Way for Latinx Teachers: Recruitment and Preparation to Promote Educator Diversity, identifies the “academic, financial, and sociocultural” barriers that Latino students face along the pathway into teaching and proposes solutions to funnel more Latinos into the profession.

The report author, Roxanne Garza, a senior policy analyst at New America, argues that faculty at two- and four-year colleges, leaders in preK-12 schools and districts, and nonprofit organizations must work together to design programs that support Latino students who want to work as teachers.

Garza presents five policy recommendations to strengthen the Latino teacher pipeline.

In preparing the report, Garza interviewed students, teachers, administrators, and researchers tied to programs in Chicago, San Antonio, and Skagit Valley, Wash., that aim to develop more bilingual teachers. Across the programs, a common theme emerged: prospective teachers need “intensive support,” whether it be academic, financial, or social.

“What made them feel like they were able to succeed is this very intensive support, having that mentor, that person that they could rely on because a lot of them are first-generation students,” Garza said.

Here’s a summary of the proposals:

1. Invest in higher education partnerships

Deploy federal funds to: 1) Invest in Hispanic-serving colleges and institutions that graduate large numbers of Latino students and teachers; and 2) continue to use grants that encourage collaboration between two- and four-year colleges to foster degree completion and successful school transfers.

This is key, Garza said, because many Latino students begin their postsecondary education in community colleges.

“If they’re enrolling in community college, then we need to ensure that they are transferring to a four-year institution where they can complete the bachelor’s degree that they need in order to enter the teaching profession,” Garza said.

2. Develop grow-your-own programs

Pour more resources into grow-your-own programs—partnerships that prepare residents to work as educators in their own communities where they are more likely to stay and teach.

Earlier this fall, Education Week profiled a grow-your-own program in Hall County, Ga., that was designed to close the gap between the number of Spanish-speaking students and Spanish-speaking educators there.

3. Support students financially

Use loan-forgiveness programs, relocation incentives, and other financial support programs to help recruit and retain Latino teachers.

In Hall County, Ga., the district covers college tuition for prospective teachers at the nearby University of North Georgia and offers them paid part-time jobs as school paraprofessionals, with the goal of keeping them in the district once they graduate.

4. Collect more data

Because of inadequate data collection on rates of retention, completion, and entry into the teaching profession for students in teacher preparation programs, there is not enough known about what strategies and programs are most effective for training Latino teachers.

Garza suggests that more states align data to track students from the time they enter grow-your-own programs until they enter the profession, noting when and why students drop out of the pipeline.

5. Identify testing barriers

In states where basic skills tests are keeping large numbers of Latino candidates from working as teachers, Garza suggests that states and colleges of education identify students who have gaps in their academic skills and provide support to shore up their weaknesses. States should also explore using subsidize test preparation for Latino students.

“What made them feel like they were able to succeed is this very intensive support, having that mentor, that person that they could rely on because a lot of them are first-generation students,” Garza said.

Related Reading

Wanted: Teachers as Diverse as Their Students

Bilingual Teachers Are in Short Supply. How Schools Can Schools Cultivate Their Own?

Latino Male Teachers: Building the Pipeline

Teacher Diversity Gap Poses a Steep Climb

Image Credit: New America

Photo Credit: Adrian Galvan, left, is a bilingual paraprofessional at Lyman Hall Elementary School in Hall County, Ga. He is part of program that aims to recruit teacher-candidates who reflect the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the student population.

--Nicole Craine for Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.