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Shanker Report Highlights Teacher Diversity Crisis Being Addressed by AACTE Networked Improvement Community

New data illuminate the growing problem of the lack of diversity in the teacher workforce and reframe teacher diversity as an “educational civil right” for students. The Albert Shanker Institute’s recent report on The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education names teacher diversity as a crisis in the educator workforce—the very topic being addressed by the 10 institutions participating in a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) sponsored by AACTE. Specifically, AACTE’s effort seeks to identify strategies to boost the number of Latino and Black men in the education profession.

The authors of the Shanker report studied research and data on teacher diversity from 1987 to 2012 in nine cities in the United States. The report shows that for the period of 1987-2012, the percentage of the students of color changed from 23% to 37% (a 14 percentage point increase). For the same period, the percentage of teachers of color rose from 12% to 17%—a mere 5 percentage point increase. This shows that the rate of increase of students of color is far (almost three times) greater than the increase in the percentage of teachers of color. Therefore, this is a crisis not only in the decline of numbers of young people seeking education careers, but the absence of young people of color choosing the profession at the same rates as the number of students of color enrolled in the nation’s schools.

Notably, although recruitment has received the bulk of attention in studies on teacher diversity, the real culprit driving the numbers down can be found in retention. Specifically, the Shanker report cites that persons of color who enter the profession leave at a higher rate than their White colleagues. The largest decline in teacher retention during the period studied was among African American teachers. Further, research on teachers of color cites lack of autonomy and poor workplace conditions as most significant in understanding high attrition rates. Overall, the authors stress that while this problem greatly impacts minority students, the lack of teachers from diverse backgrounds in the teacher workforce severely impedes the hope of democracy in an ever-increasingly diverse nation.

AACTE has long been committed to addressing this issue and launched the NIC in 2014, for which the call for member participants received a strong response. Representatives from the 10 selected institutions have been meeting for over a year to examine both locally in their own universities, and nationally among the 10 universities, the complexities, challenges, and successes in promoting teacher diversity. The overall purpose of the NIC process is to harvest the knowledge and learning of the participating higher education-based teacher preparation programs. The goal is to change educational systems through intentional focus on practice to bring about a shift in culture. Continuing to develop culturally inclusive environments in teacher education not only speaks to attracting the best and the brightest into our preparation programs but keeping them in the teacher workforce as well.

In the latest step in their process, the NIC convened September 16 in Washington, DC, with the aid of a facilitator trained in the NIC process, which originated with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson opened the meeting with remarks stressing the importance of focusing on and integrating community in the diversification of the teacher workforce. Over the course of the day, the AACTE NIC team facilitated in-depth and spirited discussions and reviewed informal and formal feedback provided by the universities on new and long-standing efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity among teachers. At the close of the day, one thing was clear: Increasing the number of Latino and Black men in the U.S. teacher workforce will require the commitment of multiple stakeholders to a vision of U.S. schools that, thus far, has only lived in the imagination.

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The learnings of the NIC will be presented in a major forum at the 2016 AACTE Annual Meeting with the purpose of informing possible recommendations for policy makers, teacher preparation programs, community partners, and PK-12 systems. The group anticipates an interactive discussion of the two arteries of research under study: recruitment and retention of Latino and Black men.

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Sharon Leathers

William Paterson University (NJ)

Nanette Missaghi

University of Saint Thomas (MN)