Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bridging the Diversity Gap in Schools an Imperative

One of the most pressing problems in schools today is the wide disparity between minority students and minority teachers, and bridging this diversity gap is imperative, with no less than educators themselves, and other concerned groups pointing out this urgent need. Increasing teacher diversity is a must.

Almost half the students attending public schools are minorities, yet fewer than 1 in 5 of their teachers is nonwhite. New studies from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association are calling attention to this "diversity gap" at elementary and secondary schools in the United States. The groups want more to be done to help teachers more accurately mirror the students in their classrooms. See more at

As the country's population has grown more diverse, so has diversity in student demographics; thus, it makes good sense for teacher diversity to also reflect this growing trend in the schools. Diversity working in the classroom is when the teachers standing in the front of the classroom mirror the students filling the seats. (Center for American Progress)

However, as the Center for American Progress has gathered from its analysis of data from the 2012 Schools and Staffing Survey, a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals administered every four years by the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as the 2011 data from the Common Core of Data, which is also administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, and looking at teacher diversity of select states, the following, among others, depict the current situation:
  • The gap between teachers and students of color continues to grow.
  • Almost every state has a significant diversity gap.
  • When we looked across racial and ethnic backgrounds, we found that the Hispanic teacher population had larger demographic gaps relative to students.
  • Diversity gaps are large within districts.
  • The Center uses the term”nonwhite” in this case to refer to anyone who is African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American.
One voice reiterating the need for increasing the number of Black and Latino teachers is José Luis Vilson, a middle school math teacher in Washington Heights, and author of the soon-to-be-released book “This is Not a Test:a New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education.” He writes the following insights:
  • Teachers who can relate to their students on a cultural level can reach their students in important ways.
  • Every student of color could use a role model. If their role model just happens to be the teacher in front of them, that’s perfect.
  • Our importance as teachers of color stems from this dire need for kids of all races and backgrounds to see people of color as multidimensional and intelligent, different in culture but the same in capability and humanity.
Perhaps one compelling reason to grow teacher diversity in the classroom, from the lower grades to collegiate level, is its impact on student performance.

According to three economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research, minority students tend to perform better when taught by minority educators. Their research showed that “black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students are 2.9 percent more likely to pass courses with instructors of a similar racial or ethnic background.” While this research was conducted at college level — their evidence was based off of studies done at California’s De Anza College — there’s little reason why these findings can’t be extrapolated to the pre-collegiate level. Read more here

Clearly with all this shown, it is indeed important to address the issue of diversity gap in schools, explore all means to improve teacher diversity, but as the Center for American Progress and the NEA both stress, it needs more than the currents solutions being done:
the solutions to improving teacher diversity might boil down to something more fundamental: political will.(CAP)

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