Diverse Teachers Are Key to Students’ Success

March 6, 2015 by No Comments

Classroom

In spite of government programs meant to encourage people of color to become teachers, African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos make up only a combined 17% of public school teachers nationwide. In contrast, the number of minority students is rapidly growing. One possible explanation for the diversity gap between teachers and students is the high turnover rate among teachers.

Studies have shown that teacher turnover varies by the financial status of students in a school, as well as by teacher ethnicity. An easy way to estimate the percentage of low-income students in a school district is by looking at the number of students signed up for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL). Teacher turnover averaged 22% at schools where FRL students made up at least 75%, while schools with lower FRL rates saw teacher turnover at 13%.

Unfortunately, financial status is only one side of the issue. Hispanic and Latino teachers have a 20.6% turnover rate, and African-American teachers have a turnover rate of 21.8%. To contrast, white, non-Hispanic teachers only average a 15% rate of turnover. One major cause of this displacement is the disproportionate assignment of minority teachers to school districts with higher poverty levels, where turnover rates remain high regardless of teacher ethnicity.

Having a diverse faculty is important to ensure student success. In addition to teaching children how to function in an integrated society, having a racially diverse faculty improves minority students’ self-esteem and gives them positive role models for life. Students are more likely to form relationships with teachers who look like them, allowing teachers to become much needed mentors.

Studies have shown that schools with more diverse faculty tend to have higher graduation rates for students of ethnic backgrounds similar to the teachers’. With approximately 1,837 universities and colleges in the United States, having a college degree is crucial to students looking for lucrative careers. Because of this, it is important to ensure every student is given an opportunity for higher education.

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