Teacher workforce not keeping pace with student diversity

Increased effort should be made to diversify the nation's predominately white teacher workforce to make it more reflective of its student population, says a report released this month.

While 40 percent of the nation's student population is non-white, teachers of color make up just 17 percent of the teaching force, according to the report, Teacher Diversity Matters," by the non-profit, public policy think tank Center for American Progress.

The report stops short of saying that a more diverse teaching corps would help close existing achievement gaps between non-white student groups and their counterparts - a theme of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It does state, however, that teachers of color serve as role models for students and that, "A recent review of empirical studies also shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they're taught by teachers of color."

While every state has a large teacher diversity gap - the ratio of students of color to teachers of color - California had the greatest divide: Seventy-two percent of students are non-white while only about 29 percent of teachers are of color, a gap of more than 43 percentage points, according to the report.

Students and teachers of color, as defined by the report, are those that are not white, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

More than 20 states have a difference of 25 percentage points or more between the diversity of their teacher and student populations, the report found.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is the lower rate of achievement among students of color, "which inhibits them from moving into the teaching force."

In addition to boosting the academic performance of these students in the K-12 system, recommendations to help diversify the teacher workforce include:

  • Expanding high-quality recruitment programs as well as alternative certification programs

  • Increasing federal oversight of and increased accountability for teacher preparation programs

  • Creating statewide initiatives to fund teacher preparation programs aimed at low-income and minority teachers

  • Strengthening federal financial aid programs for low-income students entering the teaching field

  • Strengthening state-sponsored and nonprofit teacher recruitment and training organizations by increasing standards for admission, using best practices to recruit high-achieving minority students, and forming strong relationships with districts to ensure recruitment needs are met

To view the entire report, see http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/11/increasing_teacher_diversity.html