Teacher-student racial disparity in Virginia highlights lingering issue nationwide
- Minority students comprise about 49% of the population while only 21% of educators are minorities, according to an analysis conducted by the Task Force on Diversifying Virginia’s Educator Pipeline, The Virginian Pilot reports.
- The task force identified three main obstacles for minority teaching candidates: the cost and time of obtaining teaching credentials in relation to salary expectations; lack of exposure to teaching as a career and not enough candidates seeking provisional licenses.
- The report recommended reducing the time to get an education degree from five years to four, designing student loan programs to attract minority candidates and working to increase interest in the profession among high school students.
In many U.S. schools, more than 50% of students are from minority populations while fewer than 20% of teachers are minorities, recent reports reveal. At the same time, some states are facing resegregation issues while almost all are facing teacher shortages. In the midst of all these challenges to the teaching profession, improving parity between student and teacher minority populations seems to be nearly impossible.
However, the importance of bringing balance to this equation cannot be denied. As minority populations in schools increase, the need for minority role models and mentors in the profession also increases. Minority educators are often more willing to work in racially segregated areas or high-poverty schools and generally demand more academically from minority students than white teachers. An increase in minority teachers could also help minority students see themselves in that role as adults. which could create a pipeline of future teachers.
The problem is not new. Researchers have been discussing ways to increase minority participation in the teaching profession since the mid-1980s. Though state and federal government officials may be able to help solve the problem by increasing teacher pay and reducing educational costs, school districts and communities can help solve the problem by increasing respect for the profession and changing the narrative about teaching so that students see value in teaching as a career choice. Superintendents can also help by giving all teachers, minorities in particular, more of a voice in the classroom and in educational decisions as this lack of influence is one of the driving factors in why minority teachers leave the classroom.