Teacher Diversity Not Keeping Up With Student Demographics

Many studies are finding that the number of teachers in racial minorities is significantly lower than the percentage of students in those same minorities.

Almost half the students attending public schools are minorities, yet fewer than 1 in 5 of their teachers is nonwhite.

Close to half of the students in the nation’s public school system are of a racial minority, whereas only 20% of teachers in elementary and secondary schools are members of a racial minority group. In 2012, 82% of public school teachers were white, 8% were Hispanic, 7% were black and about 2%were Asian, according to website Latina.

It is predicted that in the fall of 2014, for the first time in American history, minority racial groups will comprise more than half of all American students.

Supporters state that encouraging more minority groups to become teachers will strengthen the school system. It will help students of a racial minority to see that success is available and accessible to them. Stephen Crockett for The Root writes:

“It becomes easier for students to believe ‘when they can look and see someone who looks just like them, that they can relate to,’ said Gilbert, a member of the NEA’s executive committee. ‘Nothing can help motivate our students more than to see success standing right in front of them.’”

They also believe that it will help white students to broaden their horizons by having a minority teacher.

In mainly white places, like North Dakota, it will help white students to see that there are people who talk and think differently from them and will help them in the lesson of worldwide diversity, reports Jesse Holland for The Associated Press.

Some say that part of the problem with minorities not wanting to go into teaching is that now, more job opportunities are open to them, states Holland. In previous generations, African Americans could only get a good paying job by teaching.As more and more jobs are open to them,  teaching is no longer attractive. Holland quips:

“‘It’s not seen as the ideal career to have, and so therefore our youngsters, our black children tend to move in other directions,’ said Gray, who also serves as a government liaison for the National Alliance of Black School Educators.”

The Center for American Progress said in its 2013 report that having minority teachers is integral for two main reasons.

“Teachers of color serve as role models for students, giving them a clear and concrete sense of what diversity in education–and in our society–looks like.

“A recent review of empirical studies shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they’re taught by teachers of color.”

Given how often minorities are scoring lower on standardized tests compared to white students, it is easy to see just how integral teachers from racial minorities could be.