The Teacher of Color Shortage: Addressing a Pressing Problem - Digital Promise

The Teacher of Color Shortage: Addressing a Pressing Problem

This illustration shows a colorful grid of 10 squares containing a mix of brown and pale tan silhouettes, with more pale tan silhouettes, to depict the lack of diversity in the United States teacher workforce.

April 16, 2020 | By

It’s not a secret: The teacher workforce does not reflect the demographics of our student population. Today, 54 percent of students are of-color while only 18 percent of teachers are of-color.

Historically, the teacher of color workforce was decimated with the passing of Brown v. Board of Education. As schools were segregated, Black and Brown teachers were displaced by the thousands as a result of racist policies that devastated communities of color and de-prioritized high-quality teaching and learning practices developed by teachers of color.

The effects of the landmark Supreme Court decision are underscored within the context of the COVID-19 crisis across the United States. Communities of color are bearing a crushing burden due to a lack of access to quality healthcare, food, and education. The need for teachers of color is even more paramount as they provide a relationship lifeline—caregivers, supporters, mentors—for our most disadvantaged students.

This illustration shows a colorful grid of nine squares containing a mix of brown and pale tan silhouettes, with more pale tan silhouettes, to depict the lack of diversity in the United States teacher workforce.

This literature review summarizes research on factors that contribute to the continuing decline in the teacher of color workforce and presents promising practices to improve teacher of color recruitment and retention.

Today, we are releasing a literature review that summarizes research on factors that contribute to the continuing decline in the teacher of color workforce. These factors include inadequate teacher education funding and existing teachers dissuaded by a lack of career opportunities outside of purely disciplinary roles.

At the heart of the issue is a history of biased institutional structures and systems that impede the path for aspiring teachers of color and stunt the careers of practicing teachers of color. The literature review looks across the landscape to understand the pipeline barriers, outline why teachers of color are being pushed out, and begin to identify promising practices to drive pipeline and retention.

At Digital Promise, we believe the most effective ideas for solving this challenge lie with the teachers who are impacted. We are building on the research by inviting teachers of color to design pipeline and retention solutions. Over the course of the calendar year, we are hosting Design Studios in partnership with seven school districts and four charter schools across the country:

We will emerge with a set of concepts developed by teachers, then convene groups of district leaders, higher education leaders, and policymakers to create plans for evolving the concepts to pilot implementations. We will ultimately publish the concepts in recognition of the ingenuity of teachers of color to stem the tide on retention and rebuild the pipeline.

“You will receive no medal,” he said. “Your name will not be emblazoned across the world’s great daily papers. Your stories of sacrifice and devotion will not be dramatized over the great radio chains.” But these teachers should be about the business of “preparing for the world of tomorrow.” The “impressionable minds” entrusted to their care needed inspiration to seek a world of freedom, justice, and equality of opportunity.

– Quote from I.E. Washington, President of the Georgia Teachers and Educators Association,
from The Lost Education of Horace Tate by Vanessa Siddle Walker

To learn more about how we are working with teachers of color to identify and co-design solutions to address teachers of color pipeline and retention, follow the hashtag #TOCDesignStudios.

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