Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero, writing in a Teacher Diversity in America series for the Brown Center on Education Policy, recently explored the distribution of teachers of color and find that teachers in the US are even more segregated than students.
As we know, an increasing amount of evidence shows that alignment in the racial or ethnic identity of teachers and students is associated with a range of positive student outcomes, from test scores to disciplinary actions to teacher expectations. Due to the underrepresentation of teachers of color in the current workforce, minority students stand to disproportionally benefit from efforts to increase teacher diversity.
With this evidence, it is easy for many practitioners and policymakers to take a next logical step, concluding that, because minority students tend to benefit uniquely from diverse teachers, teachers of color will be most beneficial in schools serving large numbers of minority students. Thus, any new teachers of color are often steered (whether covertly or overtly) toward high-minority schools. Taken to an extreme, given the tenacious grip of racial segregation on America’s schools, we could have a school system where the teacher workforce is every bit as diverse as its students-and perhaps every bit as segregated.
In addition to the risk of creating a racially segregated workforce, the logical leap above is misguided for at least two reasons. First, it ignores the evidence showing that teachers of color benefit white students– perhaps not always through test scores, but through pro-social beliefs and attitudes. Second, schools serving large numbers of minority students already tend to have the most racially diverse workforces, while many students of color in predominantly white schools have virtually no exposure to teachers of color.
As districts and states across the country pursue racial and ethnic diversity among teachers, we should pay attention to how teachers of color are distributed to avoid creating another layer of school segregation. In essence, we need for a new framework around the hiring of nonwhite teachers.