When you take a walk down the halls of a school and look inside of the classrooms, you may notice that although the students are minorities, the majority of the teachers aren’t. A new study done by the National Education Association (NEA) and the Center for American Progress, show that only 18% of teachers are nonwhite, while half of all students are minorities.
Out of the 3.3 million teachers working in 2012, according to the study, 82% were white, 8% were Hispanic, 7% were black and 2% were Asian. On the flipside, 48% of students are nonwhite: 23% Hispanic, 16% black and 5% Asian. And with the browning of America, that number is going to get hire.
Hispanics have passed blacks as the largest minority group of teachers, just as there are more Hispanic students than African-Americans in the public school system. This tracks with the increases in the number of Hispanics in the United States, with Latinos the largest minority group in the country and the fastest-growing.
Jan Alderson, a science teacher at Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park, Kansas, saw the changes at her school.
“We have very few teachers of minority background yet we’ve gone to about 40 percent minority population,” said Alderson, who was inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame this past week. “It’s a beautiful blending, it’s just teachers who don’t have that cultural background, I think just that there are more issues.”
Teaching used be one of the only professions African-American college graduates could aspire to and make decent money, said LaRuth Gray, scholar-in-residence at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University.
But as the county integrated and other professions opened their ranks, education lost its “cachet” and fewer African-American students thought about becoming teachers, she said.
“It’s not seen as the ideal careers to have, and so therefore our youngsters, our black children tend to move in other directions,” said Gray, who also serves as a government liaison for the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
But what can be done to attract minority educators?
“Nothing can help motivate our students more than to see success standing right in front of them,” says Kevin Gilbert of the NEA’s executive committee.