Recruiting minority teachers is a goal for school districts across the U.S. Generation Z is the most culturally diverse generation of Americans, and arguably students will benefit from teachers who reflect this plurality of race and culture. While today it’s hard to find new black educators, that was not always the case.
History in brief: one reason K-12 lacks teacher diversity
During the Jim Crow era, recruiting black Americans into teaching programs and jobs was easier because career options were limited, and teaching was one socially acceptable career path. With schools segregated, it was much easier for black students to envision becoming a teacher when they were surrounded by teacher-mentors. One surprisingly unintended consequence of the landmark court ruling ‘Brown v. Board’ that desegregated schools and initiated and the path towards education equity in America was that black students were cut off from a life line of black educators who served as advocators and mentors when previously white-only schools didn’t want to hire black teachers.
Addressing today’s teacher shortage
Today schools still face a shortage of diverse teachers in part because of the systemic racism that prevented black educators from teaching in previously white-only schools. In the face of a historic teacher shortage, how can schools right a historic wrong and boost teacher diversity to the benefit of all students?
- Reevaluate Standardized Testing
Overreliance on standardized testing to assess suitability for teaching can hinder the pipeline of educators through racial and cultural biases inherent in the tests or even alienating minorities from attempting to take the test, dooming schools to perpetuate education inequities.
- Reassess financial barriers to college
The rising cost of college degrees can also inhibit would-be educators from completing teaching programs. Furthermore, traditional student teaching assignments are unpaid, making it more prohibitive for poorer students to meet requirements of teaching programs. How can states support first time students and career changers who want to teach?
- Create and effectively market alternative certification pathways
We’re seeing a rise in alternative teaching certification programs and waivers of bachelor’s degree requirements in states, including Arizona and Florida. States should create new alternative pathways or reassess how they market existing programs and initiatives to grow a pipeline of diverse candidates.
States looking to boost teacher diversity can look to Connecticut as a case study in expanding representation in teaching. Through targeted efforts, Connecticut school districts increased the percentage of black educators to 10%, up form 8.3% in 2015. They increased teacher diversity by creating a college scholarship fund for minorities to attend teaching programs and a teacher residency program that created a one-year mentorship for new teachers that pairs them with veteran teachers.
Furthermore in 2020, a new pilot program called NextGen Educators was launch by Gov. Ned Lamont that places college students from Central Connecticut State University into K-12 schools to gain classroom experience while still completing their degree. And unlike traditional student teaching, NextGen participants received pay instead of credits. The state also addressed pathways for adult career changers, called Alternative Route to Teacher Certification that doesn’t require a college degree.
Schools are experiencing unprecedented teacher shortages, and creating pathways for more job seekers to become teachers can only benefit students.
What has your school done to boost teacher diversity? Share with us in the comments below.
Jim Crow Era – A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States – HUSL Library at Howard University School of Law