- The number of teachers of color in public schools has more than doubled in the past 30 years, but that data can be framed in many ways, according to a Chalkbeat article that puts in context a recent study that painted a positive picture around teacher diversity.
The data: In 1987, about 87% of public school teachers were white, in the 2015-16 school year this number had dropped to just over 80%. The raw number of teachers of color, Chalkbeat goes on to explain, went from 305,000 out of over 2 million teachers to 760,000 out of nearly 4 million.
As Chalkbeat explains, one can look at this data and highlight the fact that the number of teachers of color increased by 150% in nearly 30 years — which is what the University of Pennsylvania study did — or they can look at the share of teachers of color and note that the share increased by only 7 percentage points.
Putting aside the question of whether or not the data should be viewed as positive or negative, the bigger picture is that educators of color have been found to bring numerous benefits to students. According to a 2016 report from The Brookings Institution, a more diverse teaching workforce may lead to higher expectations for minority students, more cultural sensitivity, and role models. The report states that “minority students might benefit from seeing adults with a similar racial/ethnic background in a position of authority. Such representation could increase the cultural value students place on academic success and perhaps reduce the stigma of ‘acting white.’”
A newer report from the Learning Policy Institute discussed how teachers of color can, for students of color, lead to higher graduation rates, lower drop-out and suspension rates, and more interest in going to college. White students also benefit, the report found, because these students become more likely to talk about bias and racism in their classrooms — an openness that benefits all students.
Despite the clear impact, however, the report found that many black and Latino educators feel that they're not valued, are expected to take on extra responsibilities — sans compensation or support. This, the report said, means many teachers of color are leaving the field earlier than their white counterparts.
There, however, actions districts can take to help and support teachers of color. These include creating incentives for current teachers to file for retirement or transfers earlier in the year — a timeline change that will give districts the ability to begin the hiring process earlier, and therefore have a more diverse candidate pool at their disposal. Offering thorough professional development and support is another route for making educators — specifically teachers of color — feel valued and assisted.