Exploring Equity Issues - Blog
Teacher Diversity Is More than Just a Conversation!
Principal Technical Assistance Consultant
American Institute of Research (AIR)
As an education technical assistance provider for the American Institutes for Research (AIR), I encounter decreasing instances of teacher-to-student match as more and more students find themselves in classrooms with teachers who don’t look like them. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during 2015-16 school year, 51% of all public education students were racial minorities. In the same school year, only 20% of public school teachers were of color.
Is this a problem?
While there are few peer reviewed research studies about the benefits of student-teacher matching, I did find a few notable studies that offer insights. In 2015, researchers examined the effect of own-race teachers on student achievement. They looked at students in grades 3 through 10 in Florida public schools and found that Black and White students made gains in math and reading once they were placed with same-race teachers. (The study also found that Asian/Pacific Island students also saw gains in math when matched with same-race teachers.) In 2017, a new group of researchers confirmed that Black students were more likely to both consider and commit to college, and follow through with taking college entrance exams. The study also found that dropout rates for Black male students decreased when those students were taught by one Black teacher between grades 3 and 5.
Why does teacher diversity matter?
At this point, much of the evidence is anecdotal. Here are a few of the most commonly discussed considerations.
Students’ social and emotional well-being at school. The 2015 Florida study found that Black students reported they felt more cared for by Black teachers and were more optimistic about school.
Student discipline and perceptions. Conscious and unconscious bias exists in varying degrees. A different 2015 study led by Jennifer Eberhardt determined that White teachers doled out tougher punishments for specific Black students – those with “black sounding names.”
Expectations. A number of studies have found that White teachers have lower expectations for Black students specifically than do Black teachers for the same students.
Which Strategies are working to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color?
As we continue to address the underlying issues fueling the disparities in the teacher development pipeline, we should focus on keeping the committed teachers we have and preparing all teachers to support and educate a diverse student population.
We know why some people are increasingly choosing not to pursue the teaching profession – pay levels, status of the profession, perceptions, and working conditions are among them. And, there are a number of efforts underway to increase the number of people of color interested in the teaching profession. A 2018 Learning Policy Institute (LPI) study offers descriptions and analysis of promising practices. Among those practices indicated are:
- Build high-retention, supportive pathways into teaching. The report posits that retention starts with how teachers are trained and supported. Designing programs that support prospective teachers’ needs will go a long way as they are preparing for their future as teachers. The report describes:
- Service Scholarships and loan forgiveness programs that might ease some of the financial strain for prospective teachers.
- Teacher residency programs that leverage district and university partnerships to ensure that students have supported actual development in classrooms throughout their teacher preparation experience.
- Grow your own programs that recruit targeted populations as early as high school, via paraprofessional staff, second-career candidates, and others.
- Course articulation agreements that might include and connect community colleges and four-year universities in education courses, certificate programs, and degrees.
- Community-based and in-district-based teacher candidate mentoring and support programs offering cohort-based exam preparation, skill building, mentoring, career advising, and connections to potential district employers
- Create proactive hiring and induction strategies. The LPI report found that the following hiring condition factors were most relevant to schools focused on hiring and retaining teachers of color – ‘timing, information provided in the hiring process, and licensure and pension portability.’
- Improve school teaching conditions through improved school leadership. Teachers of color were reported to stay in schools that are diverse, offered in-service leadership development, and we’d add those schools with leaders who developed and nurtured a collaborative learning environment among the teaching staff.
 Egalite, A., Kisida, B. & Winters, M. Representation in the classroom: The effect of own-race teachers on student achievement. (April 2015). Economics of Education Review. Volume 45. Pages 44-52
 Gershenson, S., Hart, C., Lindsay, C., & Papageorge, N. The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers. IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Discussion Paper Series. IZA DP No. 10630. March 2017.
 Carver-Thomas, D. Diversifying the teacher profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. April 2018. Learning Policy Institute
The Center for Education Equity (CEE) at MAEC is inviting members of our advisory board, partners, and other colleagues to share their views on current equity issues. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect CEE’s views or those of the Department of Education and we do not necessarily endorse any products or resources they promote.