Teacher pipeline taskforce calls for stronger diversity efforts

Teacher pipeline taskforce calls for stronger diversity efforts

(Va.) Virginia schools must do more to recruit and train racially diverse teachers if the state is to meet its goal of having minority educators make up 35 percent of the workforce by 2040, according to a new report.

Analysis by the state’s Task Force on Diversifying Virginia’s Educator Pipeline shows that while minority students comprise about 49 percent of the population, only 21 percent of educators are minorities.

“The Commonwealth’s educator workforce pipeline is becoming increasingly less diverse over time, a trend that while not entirely unusual, is alarming for a state with a rapidly diversifying student population,” authors of the report wrote. “A diverse professional pipeline that educates and prepares the next generation of teachers for the rigors of the classroom is an essential component of preparing our young people for the careers of the 21st century global economy.”

Currently, 79 percent of Virginia teachers are white, 11 percent Black, 2 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent identify as “other.” An additional 6 percent are not reported. Compare that to the student body, of which 51 percent are white, 23 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic and 12 percent identify as “other.”

Research has shown that a racially diverse mix of teachers and administrators reflective of the student body can correlate to positive educational outcomes for minority students and can have a hand in closing achievement gaps.

A 2015 study of the teacher workforces in cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles and New Orleans from the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank aligned with the American Federation of Teachers, found that 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. These teachers also act as role models for minority students.

Additionally, Stanford University report published that same year found teacher bias and negative stereotypes of black students. Researchers suggested that in addition to providing role models, increased diversity among teachers and administrators could potentially rectify some issues regarding racial bias in disciplinary practices that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Last year, hiring practices in Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina districts came under scrutiny when it was discovered staff and faculty were significantly lacking in diversity. At the same time, districts in New York and California, among a handful of other states, have increased funding for initiatives focused on boosting diversity in the local educator pipeline.

But Virginia’s educator pipeline taskforce said a lack of recruitment efforts is only part of the current problem–retaining minority teachers has proven difficult as well. According to the report, only 63 percent of minority teachers with provisional teaching licenses in the state acquire their full-time license, compared to more than 77 percent of white candidates. Many who leave cite a lack of influence in classroom and school wide decisions as a major factor.

Other obstacles for minority teaching candidates identified in the report included 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.

According to the taskforce, the average Virginia teacher will have accrued $50,879 in debt after completing their bachelor’s degree and master’s in education, which when combined with low teacher pay, can be a deterrent for young people considering a future in the teaching profession.

Authors of the report recommend making it easier for education majors to complete their degrees in four years instead of five, and consider whether the state’s student loan program for teachers is attracting minority candidates. Recommendations also include giving student-teaching stipends to low-income candidates and covering the cost of pre-professional tests.

“The disproportionate racial composition of Virginia’s school staff poses a direct threat to the success of Virginia’s increasingly diverse students,” authors concluded. “To address this issue, Virginia must acknowledge the unique set of challenges faced by minority educators and advance strategies specifically tailored to attract, retain and support teachers of color.”