Despite gains, the teaching workforce looks less and less like the students it serves, a new study finds.
The percentage of African-American teachers in many of the nation’s largest public school districts is declining, and policymakers must redouble their efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, according to a new report.
Nationally, the teaching force is gradually growing more diverse, the report found, with the share of non-white teachers rising from 12 percent to 17 percent from 1987 to 2012, the last year for which data was available.
But the population of minority students has been growing more rapidly; they now account for more half of all public school students. The result is a teacher work force that looks less and less like the student body it serves, according to the report, conducted by the Albert Shanker Institute, a non-profit organization funded by the American Federation of Teachers.
“Minority teachers remain significantly underrepresented relative to the students they serve,” the report said.
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The study looked at trends in nine large cities: Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The institute collected ten year’s worth of data, covering the period from 2002 to 2012, and uncovered what it called some “disquieting” trends.
In each of the nine cities, the black share of the teaching workforce declined, sometimes dramatically. The decline in the number of black teachers averaged 31.6 percent.
The schools have done an adequate job of recruiting and hiring minority teachers, the report found, but they have not been successful at retaining them. Dissatisfied with working conditions in their schools, minority teachers have been leaving the profession at a higher rate than others.
The report called on federal, state and local officials to carefully monitor hiring trends, to make diversity data available to the public and to take steps to increase the pool of potential teaching recruits.
In particular, it called on state and federal governments to support teaching programs at colleges and universities that serve large numbers of minority students and to take steps to provide mentoring and support for novice teachers to ensure they stay on the job.
Although Seattle wasn’t included in the report, district data collected in October 2014 shows that 79 percent of its teachers were white and 21 percent were minorities. By contrast, 46 percent of the students were white, and 54 percent were minorities.
Statewide, 88 percent of classroom teachers and 57 percent of students were white.
Efforts are underway to improve those numbers in Seattle and statewide. The Martinez Foundation provides scholarship support for candidates in a Masters of Teaching program, as well as career coaching and professional development. And a new Seattle Teacher Residency is seeking to accomplish the same goal in the city’s schools. That program is a collaboration among the University of Washington, the Seattle Education Association and the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit representing local businesses and philanthropies that is providing the startup money.
This story, published Sept. 16th, has been corrected. Eighty-eight percent of Washington public school teachers are white, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, not 77 percent.