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National Summit Explores Diversity in Teaching Workforce

Several members of AACTE’s Member Engagement team attended the U.S. Department of Education’s May 6 National Summit on Teacher Diversity. The event, held at the conclusion of Teacher Appreciation Week, provided a forum to examine the need for a more diverse teaching workforce and to share best practices for recruiting, supporting, and retaining teachers of color.

Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., offered opening remarks about the importance of diversifying the educator pipeline. “Students of color would benefit from having more educators and role models who look like them,” he said. “And White students would benefit from seeing more people of color in leadership positions in their schools.”

A group of high school students participated in a panel discussion with Secretary King about the need for teacher diversity from students’ perspective. Students said teachers need to not only reflect their own ethnicity and cultural awareness but also believe in them, listen to their stories, and offer them support and encouragement.

Another panel looked at the need for teacher diversity through teachers’ eyes. Panelists cited examples of increased expectations placed on teachers when they are the only person of color among their colleagues. The panel included 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes, who spoke about the involvement of a caring teacher of color who helped her early on in her journey to becoming a great teacher herself.

Education dean Leslie Fenwick of Howard University (DC) shared research and data on U.S. teacher demographics. She said historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) comprise only 3% of the nation’s postsecondary institutions yet prepare 50% of Black teachers. In addition, just two of the nation’s Hispanic-serving institutions prepare 90% of the nation’s Hispanic and Latino teachers. (See her related opinion piece in The Washington Postabout the benefits of having a diverse workforce. See also AACTE’s efforts on this front, including the AACTE Holmes Program and the Black and Hispanic/Latino Male Teachers Initiative Networked Improvement Community.)

In conjunction with the summit, the U.S. Department of Education released a new report, The State of Racial Diversity in the Education Workforce. The report is intended to provide a basis for discussion, strategy development, and further research on this important topic.

“This issue of diversity is really about making our country better,” Secretary King said. “We will get closer to our goals of equity and excellence if we have a diverse teaching workforce.”

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Gail Bozeman

Chief of Staff, AACTE