Growth Rate of Teacher Diversity Still at a Crawl

From 1987 to 2012 the percent of minority teachers in the United States only grew from 12 to 17 while minority students now account for over half of the student population. According to a new report from the Albert Shanker Institute, this disparity is caused not by recruitment problems but by attrition. The study of 9 cities (Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC) also found underrepresentation in new hires.


  • The Black share of the teacher workforce declined, at rates from the very small to the quite large—from  roughly 1 percent in Boston’s charter sector and Cleveland’s district sector, to more than 24 percent in New Orleans and nearly 28 percent in Washington, DC.
  • Losses in the number of Black teachers were even greater, ranging from a low of 15 percent in New York City to a high of 62 percent in New Orleans.
  • There is no evidence that seniority-based layoffs played a role in these declines.
  • Teachers of all races and ethnicities tended to teach in schools with high concentrations of students who were low income and minority. As a general rule, Black and Hispanic teachers taught in schools with at least modestly higher concentrations of low income and minority students.

Recommendations include:

  • As part of its Civil Rights Data Collection, the U.S. Education Department should collect and report data on the race and ethnicity of the teaching force in all public schools, district and charter.
  • Governors, state legislatures and state departments of education should review education-related legislation and policy for their impact on teacher diversity, and amend or modify them to promote diversification and avoid the unintended consequence of diminishing diversity.
  • To both increase the number of minorities who are well prepared to enter the teaching profession and ensure that novice minority teachers receive the mentoring and support they need to be successful  and remain in teaching, the U.S. Education Department and the state departments of education should support the development and expansion of programs with evidence of helping to recruit, mentor and support minority teachers.
  • School districts and schools, working collaboratively with local teacher unions and community, need to develop strategic plans for the diversification of their teacher workforces.

Read The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education, Albert Shanker Institute (September 2015)

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