While there are more teachers of color in public schools today than at the turn of the century, they remain overwhelmingly clustered in schools with the highest concentration of minority students.
As part of a new longitudinal analysis of minority students’ achievement in public schools, the National Center for Education Statistics and the American Institutes of Research looked at how and where the teaching force has diversified across the country.
White teachers still make up the vast majority of American educators: 80 percent in 2015-16, a drop of only 3 percentage points since 2003-04, and the percentage of teachers who were black also fell 1 percent during the same period, to 7 percent. Hispanic teachers now make up 9 percent of the workforce, up from 6 percent, while Asian teachers increased from 1 percent to 2 percent.
To put that in perspective, students of color now make up a majority of the nation’s public school students, and their numbers have grown steadily for more than two decades now. Asian, black, and Hispanic teachers make up 29 percent of educators in charter schools, 10 percentage points more than in traditional district schools. In fact, the percentage of teachers and students of color match each other much more closely in charter schools than in traditional district schools.
But nationwide, teachers of color make up less than a third of the teaching staff all schools except those with the very highest concentrations of students of color, as the chart below shows:
Moreover, separate federal research suggests the pipeline for new teachers of color is drying up rather than filling, in spite of scattered local efforts to encourage more minority students to go into teaching. Some have argued that education degree programs do try to recruit minority teacher-candidates, but don’t always provide enough support while they are enrolled.
That’s troubling, as research suggests that all students—and particularly minority students—benefit from being exposed to teachers of color. In an Education Week commentary last summer, Kurt Laakso, an assistant superintendent from Township High School District 214 in suburban Chicago, argued that the dearth of teachers of color undercuts other school efforts to promote equity:
This phenomenon is more than a teacher-recruitment challenge; it is a crisis with social-emotional implications. The message we send students when our faculties do not represent our diverse populations is tantamount to institutional racism. Research shows when students of color look at the educators in their school and find only one or two faces that resemble theirs, they internalize the assumption that immutable characteristics of race are, in fact, a barrier to professional success. Once such an assumption takes hold, whatever encouragement students of color may hear from well-meaning educators begins to ring hollow.
Image Source: Getty
Chart Source: National Center for Education Statistics
- School Leaders Can Help Reduce Minority Teacher Turnover
- The Key to Keeping Minority Teachers When the Rest of the Staff is White
- Latino Male Teachers: Building the Pipeline
- In Efforts to Boost Teacher Diversity, Asians and Pacific Islanders Seek Inclusion
Do you have a question about education research, or just want to know what the evidence says about that pesky instructional problem? Let me know! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.