America’s youth is as diverse as it has ever been, with minority children in public schools becoming the majority this fall, but their teachers lack that diversity by a long shot, according to a new report.
A study from the liberal Center for American Progress showed while 48 percent of American students attending public schools are Hispanic, Black or Asian, minority groups only make up 18 percent of America’s teaching corps. Nine percent of the teachers are Hispanic, 7 percent are Black and 2 percent are Asian. The minority gap has grown significantly in recent years, according to the report.
“Whatever the root cause of the lack of diversity among the teacher workforce, one thing is clear: States and districts have not done enough to address the issue,” the report said. “Few states have created rigorous programs to help individuals of color enter the teaching profession. Not nearly enough districts have offered bonuses or other benefits to people of color who are interested in becoming educators.”
Michael Johnson, CEO of the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, said the lack of diversity among teachers in America is a major issue in need of resolution.
“Our schools need to be diverse, and our school districts and businesses need to do a better job at creating a more diverse workforce,” Johnson said.
Schools must reflect the populations they serve, even if that means going out and recruiting teachers of color, Johnson said.
With Madison’s vast achievement gap, Linda Hoskins, the former president of the Madison NAACP, emphasized the need for these cultural differences among teachers. She pointed to a lack of teacher diversity in public elementary and secondary schools as a key factor that prevents minority students from achieving their full potential.
“It is important for students to have teachers who look like them, speak like them – [that] can be a role model,” Hoskins said.
According to the report, teachers of color have proven to improve the academic achievements of minority students when of similar backgrounds. Students of color need teachers who set rigorous standards for them while serving as models for professional success, according to the report.
Hoskins said minority students in Wisconsin in particular lack a level playing field, citing key factors such as disparities in composition of testing and the hiring of educators.
“One of the problems is the teaching style,” Hoskins said. “We come from various backgrounds, and students need to see people of color. They need to see people that can communicate with them as a whole because if the teacher can’t communicate with you and does not understand the way you think, then that’s a problem.”
According to the report, teachers of color tend to leave their positions at a much higher rate than their white colleagues, citing lack of respect in the workplace, lagging salary levels and difficult working conditions as causes for their departures.
Hoskins called for increased minority inclusion in the workplace including assembling more diverse test composition groups and hiring committees.
Currently, too many teachers stereotype students of color, in particular Black pupils, Hoskins said. She said she believed Black teachers to have less of a tendency to stereotype students of color in their classrooms.
Johnson said recruiting tactics for teachers, especially on college and university campuses, need to be ramped up and sharpened to attract and retain a diverse and competent teaching staff for public schools.
“Kids need the opportunity to gain these experiences, and we have to make sure that we’re going down to these local universities and recruiting the best and the brightest to come to work here,” Johnson said.
The Boys and Girls Club, in conjunction with the City of Madison and multiple charities, will announce a new jobs initiative Thursday morning to improve hiring tactics of minority teachers.