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Policymakers Must Act to Diversify Teaching, Report Says

Across all routes into teaching, policymakers need to improve their efforts to recruit and retain minorities, a new report says.

The recommendations from the Center for American Progress released this week seeks to remind policymakers at all levels that the teaching profession looks a bit too homogenous, though opportunities to remedy that abound.

"Despite the barriers in the educator pipeline, there is a great opportunity ahead: Targeted outreach to high-performing students of color with an interest in teaching opens the door to a more diverse teaching workforce—and a more effective one as well," write authors Farah Z. Admad and Ulrich Boser.

The report compiles research from a variety of past studies and surveys to create a picture of why teachers of color don't enter—or stay—in the profession.

The report also suggests, based on a past survey, that blacks avoid teaching due to prior negative experiences with teachers. That's not necessarily hard to imagine, given the disparity in harsh discipline between white and minority students. The authors cite a "low regard" for the teaching profession which averts many potential candidates; that jibes with a recent survey from the group Third Way showing college students find teaching to be an "average profession" with low pay.

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In addition, the report notes a number of barriers to entry, including within college admissions and licensing, that prevent minority teachers' entrance into teaching.

The report focuses mostly on the dynamic of blacks within the teaching profession, but it's also worth pointing out a glaring discrepancy for Asian-Americans: Despite having the best college enrollment rate of any group, including whites, only 3 percent of education majors were Asian. The authors acknowledge in the footnotes that making any statements about the Asian population within the teaching profession gets tricky, because by and large, there's not a lot of good data that separates the term "Asian" into the many different ethnicities contained therein—Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc. (This is actually the subject of a separate Center for American Progress study, released in March.)

States are not unaware of the problems with teacher diversity, and many have made efforts to address that gap in recruitment. But some researchers also point to retention as the primarily culprit; minority teachers tend to teach in more difficult schools, and thus are more likely to leave teaching. The CAP report touches on that area of difficulty, calling for better support of new minority teachers.

The authors say that in every area, though, the key is action.

"While there are many barriers for teachers of color, the upside is that we now know what those barriers are and where to intervene."

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