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Teaching Workforce Still Mostly White and Female; More Diversity Supports Needed

Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released initial data from the 2015-2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey, providing the latest nationwide snapshot of the characteristics of public school teachers. (Results of the school-level survey are being released today, and principal-level data are available here.) The “First Look” report on the teacher survey (download PDF here) shows the education workforce has grown slightly more female (77% compared to 76%) and slightly less White (80% compared to 82%) than it was 4 years ago – although NCES cautions that comparisons are somewhat imprecise because some of the questions were worded differently or drew on different sources than in the former Schools and Staffing Survey, on which the new survey is based.

A recent article in Education Week highlights key data and comparisons between this survey and the last, noting that the education profession has made some advancements in diversifying the teaching workforce. However, these modest gains may be more conditional than intentional, and the survey spotlights continued trouble spots such as low pay and uneven assignment of teacher expertise. What this article says to me is that we must continue to work every day to make teaching a worthy career option, valued for its contributions to the democratic fabric of our society – especially among the most underrepresented demographics. As a profession, we have an ongoing imperative to attract highly motivated, diverse, innovative, smart educators into the profession and support them with programs rich in the pedagogy and content that will serve the nation’s young people well into the future.

AACTE continues to collaborate with our members around various problems of practice, including those related to the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. The Shanker Institute report published in fall 2015 found that the profession was recruiting teachers of color at the same rate as White teachers, but the teachers of color were leaving the profession in greater numbers by Year 5 of practice. The report identified the primary cause of this attrition as a lack of autonomy in instruction – chiefly from mandated testing and curriculum interventions.

To combat these trends, AACTE member institutions have been taking action with local recruitment pathways and support programs, and faculty from around the country are engaging in AACTE’s Topical Action Groups (TAGs) around specific critical issues and populations. The Association also continues to work with members and partners on long-term efforts, such as the Networked Improvement Community (NIC) focused on the recruitment and retention of Black and Hispanic/Latino men, and the AACTE Holmes Program, recently expanded to reach more institutions and students at different levels in the education pipeline.

Earlier this month, an Education Talk Radio show featured a conversation about the work and findings of the NIC and related initiatives at partner institutions. Listen to the show’s recording here to learn about how AACTE and member institutions Boston University (MA), Clemson University (SC), and the University of South Carolina, as well as educational leaders in Fairfax, Virginia, are working to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching workforce in their local communities.

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Rodrick Lucero

Vice President for Member Engagement and Support