Most teacher-preparation programs are less racially diverse than the colleges and universities that house them, according to a new analysis from a Washington-based think tank.
The Urban Institute has created a publicly available data tool that allows users to look at school enrollment and graduation rates by race, comparing colleges and universities to their undergraduate preservice teaching programs.
Users can select for school type (public, private, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities), school size, and size of education program. It’s also possible to look up individual schools by name. Enrollment and graduation numbers are from the National Center for Education Statistics from school years 2010-2011 through 2016-2017.
Some of the largest teacher-preparation programs in the country have these enrollment gaps: In Arizona State University’s teacher-preparation program 4 percent of students are black, compared to 5 percent of all students at the university. Others, though, see higher black enrollment: At Mississippi State University, 25 percent of students studying education are black, compared to 21 percent of all students at the school.
"[E]ven among those who do complete college, black, Hispanic, and Asian graduates earned teaching degrees at lower rates than white graduates,” the researchers wrote. “So which colleges are helping to close the teacher diversity gap, and which are only making it wider?”
In most of the schools in the Urban Institute’s analysis, a greater percentage of students in the teacher-preparation program are white than in the school as a whole. For black students, the opposite is true: They’re underrepresented in most preservice programs, compared to the proportion of black students at the institution.
But Hispanic students, for the most part, are just as likely to join a teacher-preparation track as they are to attend college in general. “Relative to their college-enrollment rates, Hispanic students are not really underrepresented,” said Constance Lindsay, one of the researchers.
About 80 percent of all U.S. teachers are white, while about half of school age children are students of color.
Graduation rates vary similarly by race, the researchers found.
At most colleges and universities, there is a greater proportion of white graduates in the teaching program than in the school’s graduating class as whole. Conversely, black students make up smaller percentages of their teaching program’s graduating class than their school’s graduating class at most institutions. Hispanic students also are underrepresented among teaching school graduates using this comparison, but to a lesser degree than black students.
This analysis supports existing research on teacher diversity that has found people of color to be underrepresented at almost every point along the teacher pipeline, the route from high to school to career that ushers new educators into the classroom. And even among students who have majored in education, white graduates are more likely than black graduates to say they want to go into teaching.
The lack of diversity in the nation’s teaching force has real consequences for students, research has shown: Black students do better academically and are less likely to face suspensions or expulsions when they have black teachers.
"[T]he fact that attrition patterns vary by race suggests there is more universities and programs could do,” the Urban Institute researchers write.
One option is to do more to support minority-serving institutions, which are going “beyond their fair share of producing diverse teachers,” said Lindsay. (These schools, which include HBCUs, have graduated 38 percent of the country’s black teachers, and advocates say that these universities have the potential to prepare even more educators.)
“Teacher labor markets are very localized,” she said. Partnering with a historically black college or university, or other minority serving institution, could help a state or local school district create a connection to a larger pool of teachers of color, she said.
Image: Courtesy of the Urban Institute
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.