The Center for American Progress released two reports last week focused on the lack of diversity in the American school system and what might be done about it. The first paper, Teacher Diversity Matters, by Ulrich Boser, reflects on the increasingly diverse public school population and the decreasingly diverse teacher population.
Using the 2008 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Boser found that almost every state has a large teacher diversity gap. In California, 72% of students are “of color,” i.e., not white, yet only 29% of the teaching force is of color. More than 20 other states have gaps of 25 percentage points or more. Boser went on to study what factors might be leading to this gap and found that salary might play a big factor in recruitment and retention of teachers of color. Only 37% of African-American, and 46% of Hispanic teachers indicated they were satisfied with their pay; on the other side, 52% of white teachers are satisfied with their salary. Boser feels this is likely due to the fact that teachers of color are more likely to teach in poor, urban school districts where education budgets are tighter than that of the surrounding suburban districts.
The second report, Increasing Teacher Diversity, by Saba Bireda and Robin Chait, produces somewhat startling statistics: nationally, black and Latino teachers represent only 14.6% of the workforce, and in over 40% of public schools there is not a single teacher of color. Even in urban, high-poverty schools where minority teachers are disproportionately represented, teachers of color are still outnumbered by their white colleagues.
Bireda and Chait reflect on the steps that have been taken in the past few years to improve teacher effectiveness and fairly distribute effective teachers across districts. They argue that strategies to increase the number of minority teachers must operate inside this framework and “focus on developing training and tools to ensure that these teachers will be effective in the classroom.”
Both papers recognize that the recent efforts to increase recruitment of teachers of color have been successful, the very high attrition of these teachers should be taken more seriously. To that end, the authors recommend improving the opportunities for professional development and support for teachers of color. Bireda and Chait also argue for increased federal oversight of teacher preparation programs to ensure both the active recruitment, and the subsequent high-quality training, of teachers of color. Both papers also advocate increasing the number of alternative certification routes that could offer other opportunities for low-income but high achieving minority students to enter the field.
To read Ulrich Boser’s report, please visit http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/11/teacher_diversity.html
To read Bireda and Chait’s report, please visit http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/11/increasing_teacher_diversity.html