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Minority Teachers Underrepresented In U.S. Schools, Report Finds

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Teachers in the U.S. look less and less like the students they serve, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Overall, there is a persistent gap between the number of minority students and the number of minority teachers, the study found. And in particular, the proportion of black teachers declined in nine major cities — including Boston — from 2002 to 2012. In Boston Public Schools, 87 percent of students are minorities, but only 38 percent of teachers are minorities.

The report was released by the Albert Shanker Institute, a nonprofit funded by the American Federation of Teachers. The report looked at Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The study focused on the number of minority teachers, minority teacher turnover and strategies for increasing the number of minority teachers. The data in the study came from the local school districts, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Going back over a 25-year period, from 1987 to 2012, the share of all minority teachers grew from 12 percent to 17 percent, the report said citing other research. Meanwhile, minority students now account for more than half of all public school students.

"Minority teachers remain significantly underrepresented relative to the students they serve," the report said.

Here is a look at how teacher demographics changed in each city over the study period:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Teacher diversity is important, the report notes, because studies have shown a diverse teaching force can benefit all students. Some specific findings that the report highlights say:

  • Minority students who have minority teachers perform better academically
  • Teachers of color can serve as strong role models for minority students
  • Minority teachers can have positive affects on students of all races by helping reduce prejudice and stereotyping, promoting cross-cultural social bonding and preparing students to succeed in an increasingly diverse society

Having a diverse teaching force, however, remains a problem for schools because of a failure to retain minority teachers (not because of recruitment failures as commonly thought), the report said.

Minority teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than other teachers, according to the study. The main reason for the turnover is due to working conditions. This includes things such as dissatisfaction over school management, student assessments and school accountability affecting teaching, student discipline problems and a lack of classroom autonomy. Other reasons include school staffing cutbacks and to a lesser degree retirement, the report said.

In Boston, the city has launched an effort to recruit and retain minority teachers, including attending more out-of-state job fairs, the BPS High School to Teacher Program and the Community to Teacher Program. There's also the Boston Teacher Residency program, which the report highlighted and called successful.

The report, however, did find that the share of black teachers decreased in Boston over the study period. Meanwhile, the proportions of white and Hispanic teachers remained relatively the same during that period.

New teacher hires were the primary reason for the decrease in black teachers in Boston, according to the report. The proportion of black teachers being hired consistently decreased year to year, the report said.

Here is a look at teacher demographics in Boston schools:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

The report called the under-representation of minority teachers across the country an "alarming" pattern that need targeted interventions. While recruitment efforts need to continue, there is also a need for initiatives to retain minority teachers, the report said.

The report called on state governments, school districts and the federal government to invest and partner with teacher programs at colleges and universities with large numbers of minority students. The idea being that they can create a pipeline and increase the supply of qualified minority teachers. The report said these agencies should develop programs to support, mentor and train new minority teachers. The report also called on the federal government and state governments to improve their data on teacher diversity.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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