Now more than ever, the impact of not having enough minority schoolteachers is part of the conversation, with efforts focused on undoing systemic disparities.
“For so long, I think people have been uncomfortable having discussions about race and how that influences not only students but teachers in a school setting, where you are learning about what society is supposed to look like,” said Eric Duncan, Senior Data and Policy Analyst at The Education Trust.
Duncan is part of The Education Trust’s Education Diversity Team, a group that advocates for higher achievement of all students, particularly those of color or living in poverty.
Research in Sage Journals found minority students have more favorable perceptions of minority teachers, which can translate to better academic outcomes. Yet, teachers of color make up just 20% of the workforce. Close to 40% of all schools don't have a single teacher of color.
Meanwhile, racial and ethnic minority students now make up a majority of the public-school population.
Schools have made gains recently hiring more teachers of color, but retention is an issue because they leave the workforce at a higher rate than white teachers. The Education Trust found that's in part due to working conditions.
Minority teachers often take on additional roles outside of teaching that they are not paid or even recognized for.
School culture is another significant factor.
“Discipline policies that educators of color are frankly tired of seeing and our country is tired of seeing the way that students are over disciplined, are misunderstood, particularly students of color, are driven out of school, are suspended for minor misconducts,” said Duncan.
The Education Trust has recommendations on how schools can retain teachers of color, starting with collecting data by race and ethnicity on recruitment, hiring and retention. And also, providing scholarships, loan forgiveness or repayment, and relocation incentives.
The group also suggests developing leaders that promote positive working conditions for a diverse workforce, and ensuring curriculum, learning and work environments are inclusive of all racial ethnic groups.