The stunning lack of diversity in America's school teachers
2024, students who are racial minorities will make up more than half of U.S. classrooms. But minority teachers, if hiring continues at its current pace, will make up only 20.5 percent of the educator workforce. Even 100 years from now, if trends persist, teachers and students in this country will not have comparable levels of diversity.
This gloomy future was estimated based on recent data from the U.S. Department of Education report, "The State of Racial Diversity In the Educator Workforce."
According to the report, the percentage of teachers of color in public elementary and secondary schools only grew five percentage points in 24 years; they were 13 percent of the workforce in 1988 and 18 percent in 2012. This translates into an annual growth rate of 0.2 percent.
If this trend continues, there would be only four teachers of color for every 10 in 2116.
The percentage of students of color in elementary and secondary public schools is growing at a much faster rate. The number of Latino, African American, and Asian students is is estimated to rise to 54 percent by 2024, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Broadly speaking, many studies point to the benefits of diversity to companies' performance. A study by McKinsey in 2012 of 180 publicly traded companies in France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. found that companies with more diverse executive teams consistently achieved better financial performance.
In terms of education, studies showed that diversity in the teaching workforce can create significant benefits to students and help to narrow the academic achievement gap between majority and minority students.Research conducted by the University of Arkansas and the University of Colorado examined data from more than 2.9 million Florida students from the 2001-02 school year through 2008-09 school year.
"We find small but significant positive effects when black and white students are assigned to teachers of their own race/ethnicity in reading and when black, white, and Asian/Pacific Islander students are assigned to teachers of their own race/ethnicity in math," the authors write.
Teachers of the same race or ethnicity as their students can serve as positive role models and may be more inclined to hold high expectations for a student's potential. The study recommends aggressive recruiting of minority teachers to help improve the performance of minority students.
So one way of closing the gap is to rapidly increase the supply of teachers of color, but the Department of Education's report paints another bleak picture: There was a lower percentage of non-white students who pursue education-related undergraduate degrees than those who choose other fields of study. This means that even if higher education becomes more diverse, the pool of teachers won't necessarily follow suit.
Students of color were 38 percent of undergraduate campuses in 2012, but The stunning lack of diversity in America's school teachers: