We Need Teachers of Color

From Education Week

By Jacob Murray & Jackie Jenkins-Scott

School demographics in the United States are changing rapidly as students become more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and spoken language. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education predicted a historic first: This fall, a majority of public school students will be children of color. At the same time, our country's teacher workforce remains remarkably stagnant, with little change in teacher diversity rates over the past decade. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, show that between 2003 to 2011, the percentage of public school teachers of color inched up from just under 17 percent to 18 percent.

Nationally, organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute have made teacher diversity an essential priority. In our home city, the Boston public school system recently renewed its efforts to raise the number of teachers of color by at least 35 percent—a goal it has pursued since the city's busing crisis of the 1970s and 1980s. Boston, which has long been a minority-majority school district, now has 87 percent students of color; and 75 percent of all students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Like Boston, almost all urban districts across the country strive to meet workforce-diversity goals. Many have launched regional and national recruitment campaigns, while fewer have collaborated with alternative teacher-education programs to expand the teacher-of-color pipeline. It's true that recruiting, preparing, and hiring more teachers of color is essential for improving educational experiences for children. But districts must also find ways to keep these teachers. Sadly, retention has proven to be an even greater challenge than recruitment and preparation.