According to a study published by Pew Research Center in 2018, public school educators are “far less racially and ethnically diverse than their students.” Though the diversity gap has shrunk since Pew’s first survey in 1987, nonwhite students in both urban and rural environments are 80% more likely to receive instruction from white educators even today.
Student populations across the country have significantly diversified. The percentage of white students has dropped from 70% in the late 80s to 49% as of 2015, while the percentage of minority students has risen significantly. However, many students of color do not see their own minority represented in the teaching staff. Most only experience a handful — if any — of nonwhite teachers throughout their education. The lack of exposure only perpetuates the problem and lowers the chance that these students will pursue an education career.
Why is it important for minority students to have teachers of the same ethnicity? Teaching Tolerance cites separate studies by the Brookings Institution and Princeton University that confirm the benefits of a diverse teaching staff for students of color. In a survey of nearly 50,000 black and Hispanic students, the Princeton researcher found that those paired with teachers they could identify with reported “significantly better experiences than their non-matched peers.”
Dr. Brian Kisida of the University of Missouri and Dr. Anna Egalite of North Carolina State University found compelling evidence in their own research: “Across a number of different specifications,” they report, “students who share racial and/or gender characteristics with their teachers tend to report higher levels of personal effort, feeling cared for, student-teacher communication, academic engagement, and college aspirations.”
To better understand the problem, consider that some students redirect their careers from education to other fields while still in college. Organizations like Teach for America have reported attempts to recruit more nonwhite students to diversify the industry.
Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 strategic initiatives at the Center for American Progress, suggests that more recruiting programs be held accountable for recruiting minority candidates. Doing so will incentivize districts to increase the diversity of their applicant pools, she claims. Increasing scholarships and incentives for nonwhite students to enter education programs is another way for teaching associations to boost candidate recruitment. Not enough districts have prioritized diversifying their teaching body when hiring recent college graduates, which can leave nonwhite teachers at a disadvantage in the job market.
The BOND Project
The Building Our Network of Diversity (BOND) Project based in Montgomery, Maryland, offers support and training for male teachers of color. It advocates for increased hiring, professional development, and scholarship opportunities for its members. It has created a mentoring network for new educators of color, having added nearly 350 members since inception. The BOND Project groups veteran nonwhite teachers with new members, fostering discussions on race, culture, and integration within secondary classrooms. Teachers learn how to incorporate these discussions into their own classrooms to connect with their students. Local initiatives like The Bond Project inspire more students of color to pursue careers in education, helping school districts increase teacher diversity and push for sustainable change.
Educators who equip themselves to teach and lead in today’s increasingly diverse landscape can be part of the solution, and Emporia State University offers accelerated online Master of Science programs that offer the skills and knowledge they need. All of the programs offer specific courses like Cultural Influences & Educational Practice to help teachers and administrators create workplaces of inclusivity and diversity. This course helps graduate students understand personal biases within the classroom and school district and open up discourse of ways to address them. In addition, it teaches them the fundamentals underlying multicultural education, equipping them with appropriate strategies for teaching and leading students and faculty of color.