Schools Lack of Teacher Diversity

India Kettle, Journalism Student

Did you know just 5.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s teachers are persons of color compared to 33.1 percent of its students? How about that Pennridge High School has less than five teachers of color? These statistics aren’t unusual; more than 40 percent of U.S schools don’t have a single teacher of color.

Explanations for the diversity gap are complex and overlapping. Some focus on the limited pool of candidates. The big problem, according to the brief, lies in retention. Over the past several decades, minority teachers, especially male minority teachers, have switched schools or left the profession at higher rates than their non-minority counterparts. The brief, released by the Learning Policy Institute , considers decades of data on who’s entering and leaving the professions and confronts conventional wisdom about why there aren’t enough teachers of color.

Research to date highlights the symbolic and tangible benefits of a diverse teaching force. According to a significant body of research, students seem to benefit from having teachers that look like them, especially non-white students. Increasing teacher diversity is a very important strategy for improving learning for students of color and for closing achievement gaps. While white students also benefit from teachers of color, the impact is significant to students of color when they have teachers who look like them; they serve as role models and support their attachment to school. So why the lack of teacher diversity? Some argue an abundance of negative school experiences that reduce their interest in the profession are the reason why students of color are less likely to select a career in education. Others suggest there is racial discrimination and bias in school district hiring practices. The Pennsylvania Department of Education realized the need for diversifying its teacher corps in its plan for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It was one of only six states to make recruitment of teachers of color a priority.

There is an obvious need for teachers of color, they are in high demand, but short supply. Pennridge, itself, lacks teacher diversity, as it only has a few teachers of color, “The lack of diversity among teaching staff here at Pennridge is not completely uncommon to me.” Mrs. Sheppard said. Any place can benefit from diverse employees.  Mr. Deose a teacher at Pennridge said “There is a lack of racial diversity in the school.” Partnering with teacher preparation programs that can provide opportunities for student-teaching which could lead to permanent employment. Pennridge, like many other school districts offer New Teacher Trainings which is a way to help new teachers transition into their new roles in the classroom.