Teacher diversity is more than an ideal

Teacher diversity is more than an ideal; it’s a strategy that can improve student outcomes. That reality led researchers from the Urban Institute to dig deeper into the current landscape of the workforce in a recent report. Unfortunately, it looks like Americans have a long way to go.

Research demonstrates that all students, especially minority students, benefit from seeing people of color in professional roles. As teachers are the professionals children encounter most often, we know it’s past time to recruit and retain far more teachers of color.

By far the largest teacher-student diversity gap in Texas schools is among Hispanics. Approximately two-thirds of Texas schoolchildren are Hispanic, while Hispanic teachers only account for one-third of our workforce. The gap between black students and teachers, while not as wide, is also a few percentage points.

Texas would benefit from closing these gaps. To do so, we must expand the definition of the teacher pipeline.

Recruitment seems like the most direct solution to the problem, but becoming a teacher is much longer-term endeavor than most. That’s where the teacher pipeline comes in. Rather than having a pool of eligible teaching candidates at our fingertips, we will likely have to look to our current schoolchildren to eventually fill teaching roles.

Currently, Hispanic college graduates become teachers at roughly the same rate as white college graduates.  The problem: far fewer Hispanic students make it to and through college.  To increase teacher diversity, it is imperative that we address that problem.  Fortunately, Texas has a bit of a head start. Many schools are increasingly focusing on equity, and it shows in our attainment rates.

We cannot stop there. Yes, some schools are excelling in their efforts to help minority children achieve. Yes, some communities are driven by a nearly singular focus on education as a tool of social mobility. But not all.

Texans’ commitment to local control has bred a bevy of unique and inventive approaches to complex issues. The next step is increasing students’ access to these innovative and effective programs by taking what we know is already working and applying it elsewhere. If we are successful in this endeavor, we can fundamentally shift our teaching force and its effectiveness.

Today’s students can become tomorrow’s teachers—and tomorrow’s students will thank us for making that happen.

We believe every Texas child, regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code, deserves a quality education. You can help make that happen.