Revisiting the Persistent Teacher Diversity Problem

From the Center for American Progress

By Catherine Brown and Ulrich Boser 

Teacher diversity in K-12 classrooms is a problem for school districts across the country. Although people of color constitute more than one-third of the U.S. labor force, less than 20 percent of teachers identify as people of color. In some cities, the problem is especially acute: In Boston, there is one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Hispanic students and one black teacher for every 22 black students. Meanwhile, the ratio of white teachers to white students is one to fewer than three. The Center for American Progress’ recent nationwide survey of school districts’ human capital practices found that nearly half of school districts believe that teachers of color are “very difficult” to hire.

The lack of teachers of color in classrooms was a problem that CAP first highlighted in the 2011 report “Teacher Diversity Matters,” which included a new approach—the teacher diversity index—that ranked states on the percentage-point difference between teachers of color and students of color. At the time, the findings were stark: While students of color made up more than 40 percent of the school-age population, teachers of color were only 17 percent of the teaching force.

CAP later released a follow-up report in 2014 that looked at 2012 data. The report found that the demographic divide between teachers and students of color had increased by 3 percentage points.