Education groups push for
greater diversity in teaching
Nov. 9, 2004
WASHINGTON - A glaring lack of racial and cultural diversity among teachers is
hurting the chances of success for minority students, a coalition of school
A small but growing body of research shows minorities tend to do better in class
and face higher expectations when taught by teachers from their racial or ethnic
group, says the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, a
partnership led by six groups.
"Teachers of color" often serve as role models and cultural brokers who help
students connect to their school through shared identities, group leaders say.
In both the recruitment of teachers
and the training of veteran ones, the coalition is calling on policy-makers to
put a priority on diversity and "cultural competence," meaning the ability of
teachers to understand their students' culture and incorporate it in class.
Some big groups are behind the push, including the National Education
Association, the country's largest teachers union; the American Council on
Education, representing the nation's colleges and universities; and the American
Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the primary voice for the schools
charged with preparing teachers for work.
About 60 percent of public school students are white, 17 percent are black and
17 percent are Hispanic. Yet 90 percent of teachers are white, 6 percent are
black and less than 5 percent are of another race or ethnicity, according to
federal figures the coalition cited.
Roughly 40 percent of schools have no minority teachers on staff, the group
"When you have that kind of disconnect, teachers are significantly more likely
to give discipline referrals and to place kids in special education," said Segun
Eubanks, the NEA's director of teacher quality. "And they're more likely to come
in with predisposed assumptions and teach down to a perceived academic ability.
It impacts the kids' chances to excel."
Coalition leaders acknowledge that language, culture and race are only
components of a quality teaching corps. Federal law puts an emphasis on other
parts - a bachelor's degree, a state license or certification and clear
knowledge of the subjects that teachers handle.
Across the country, education colleges have done a varied job of infusing
culture and diversity issues into the curriculum, said Maria Estela Brisk, who
leads the multicultural education committee for the American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education.
"You have to give teachers the confidence that they can indeed teach children of
different cultures and backgrounds," she said. "They have to incorporate it in
their classes, the way they organize their classroom, the way they deal with
Community Teachers Institute, another partner in the coalition, sets out to
"home-grow" teachers in minority areas through partnerships of colleges, schools
and community groups.
Urban public education is the best hope for many minority children, but they are
often getting "too few teachers of color, too few qualified teachers and too
many teachers who leave too soon," said Rushern Baker II, the executive director
of the institute.
The coalition's report, "A Call to Action," is to be posted on the NEA Web site.
The other partners are the Association of Teacher Educators and Recruiting New
On the Net:
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education:
American Council on Education:
Association of Teacher Educators:
Community Teachers Institute:
National Education Association:
Recruiting New Teachers: