The lack of diversity among teachers working in the school system is detrimental to Latino and African-American students. This is a serious issue, as this ethnic disproportion does not show prospects of improving in the near future.
On Friday, the Department of Education revealed the telling figures found by a new study: Less than 1 in 5 teachers are people of color ‒ that is, 18% ‒ for a 49% of students who are. A 2014 analysis by the National Education Association said that the problem is getting worse. Twenty years ago, 26% of all teachers belonged to minorities.
Having teachers from ethnic minorities is crucial to the success of students. Because they share life experiences, a Latino teacher becomes a role model for Latino students. Equally, an African-American teacher is in a better position to identify talent among black students and to trust the student’s academic capabilities than a white one. The current disparity also leads to a mutual lack of understanding that may drive minority students to behavior that causes more suspensions and penalties.
Action must be taken as soon as possible. Some of the challenges are raising the number of college graduates among minority students, identifying high school-age youths who present talent for teaching, and increasing participation in teacher training programs.
Retention of minority teachers must improve as well. They are generally sent to the least affluent schools, with bad working conditions and a low salary. The union policy of seniority-based layoffs over any other qualification does not help either. African American and Latino teachers are usually the last to be hired and the first to be laid off.
This policy harms the youngest teachers and those who are the most enthusiastic about minorities. As a result, faculties from California to New York are more and more white in schools where African American and Latino students are majority.
This is not about color, but about an identity that will help the student. To revert the current tendency we must do what’s necessary to train and retain good minority teachers who can get the best from their students.