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New UCLA Research Effort Aims to Increase Diversity of Educators in California

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This article originally appeared in Ampersand, the UCLA Ed & IS online magazine, and is reprinted with permission.

The Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies is launching a new research initiative to inform and strengthen efforts to increase the racial, cultural and linguistic diversity of educators in California.

The project will bring together expert researchers and K-12 and higher education representatives from a variety of backgrounds to examine and identify the factors that fuel the gap in the racial identity of California’s educators and the students they serve.  The research will produce an evidence-based landscape study of the challenge, as well as additional research and policy briefs that build public awareness and set forth strategies and models for state and local efforts to increase the diversity of the education workforce. The project is funded by a grant from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a national effort to increase educator diversity.

“California policy makers and education leaders have identified educator diversity as a top priority issue, but have not had an evidence-based blueprint for change,” said Tyrone Howard, an education professor and faculty director of the Center for the Transformation of Schools. “This new effort will provide research that can inform decision making and give a powerful voice to ideas, knowledge, cultural knowledge, and strategies that further meaningful and effective actions to increase the diversity of educators.” 

The U.S. Department of Education projects that students of color will make up 56 percent of the US student population by 2024. Yet these students are taught by an educator workforce that is overwhelmingly white, with less than 1 in 5 educators being people of color.1 The most recent U.S. Department of Education Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals, shows that 82 percent of public school teachers identified as white, a figured that has changed little in more than 15 years.2 Diversity gaps are also large within school districts.

“Research has shown that educator diversity has positive benefits for students of color, helping to reduce gaps in achievement, improve graduation rates and further college aspirations,” said Kai Mathews, research director for the project at the Center for the Transformation of Schools. “It also has a positive impact on the retention of teachers.”

“California can and should do more to helppeople of color enter and remain in education. This project will help the state, as well as local districts to develop innovative strategies to address this need,” said Joseph Bishop, director of the Center.

Over the next year, the Center for the Transformation of Schools will gather scholars of color representing the UC, CSU and CCC systems to conduct research and collaborate on the landscape study. A key goal is not only to further the research, but to build stronger connections between advocacy groups, educators, and researchers of color committed to educator diversity and racial justice. The project will also conduct focus groups among students, educators, scholars, higher education segments, institutional thought leaders, state decision makers and key stakeholders to inform perspective on educator diversity and strategies for addressing the challenge.  

The Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS) in the School of Education and Information Studies (SEIS) at UCLA is dedicated to partnering with the education ecosystem to bring about systems change through Humanizing Research, Validating Practices, and Transforming Policies with key stakeholders to support equitable educational outcomes for historically underserved students.

  1. S. Department of Education (2016). The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce. Retrieved at https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/highered/racial-diversity/state-racial-diversity-workforce.pdf
  2. S. Department of Education (2012). School and Staffing Survey (SASS). Retrieved at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/methods.asp

John McDonald is the director, Sudikoff Institute for Education and Media, UCLA School of Education and Information Studies.

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John McDonald

University of California, Los Angeles