The Importance of Diverse Teachers

Think back to your childhood; did you have a teacher who made an impact on your life? Can you picture them clearly in your mind? Now consider – did they look like you? The research is overwhelming – Black students that have at least one Black teacher are less likely to drop out of school and are more likely to enroll in college. White students that have a teacher of color also benefit from learning to bridge diversity.

In Kent ISD, 18% of the students are Latinx and 14% are Black. When including students who identify as Asian, two or more races, or other, the student body of Kent ISD is about 41% students of color. However, nearly 95% of the teaching staff are White. Only about 4% of teachers in Kent ISD are Black and/or Latinx. (To dig deeper into this disparity, visit our data dashboard.) Kent County has an increasingly diverse student population and a teacher workforce that does not reflect that diversity. This isn’t happening just in Kent County – it’s happening all across the country.

On top of that, drastic reductions in the teacher pipeline across the county have led to significant local shortages. One indication of this is the decrease in college students enrolling in teacher education programs. In 2008-09 there were 23,372 students enrolled in teacher prep programs in Michigan. In 2015-16 there were 7,868 students enrolled in teacher preparation programs, which is close to a 67% drop in less than 10 years!

Based on a recent study from the State of Michigan on teacher attrition, 8% of teachers leave the teaching workforce every year. Assuming that the attrition rate is similar for Kent County, that would mean about 630 teachers leave Kent ISD every year. If half of those lost to attrition were replaced by teachers of color, we could bridge the gap between students and teachers in 4 years.

To address this disparity in teacher diversity and the decrease in the teacher pipeline, KConnect’s 4-12th Grade Workgroup recently presented a four-part, 360-degree strategy to our Accountability Partners Council that aims to inspire, train, recruit, and retain more teachers of color.

This is a systemic problem that requires long-term efforts and collaboration on both a county and state level. Check in soon for more information on the work that’s currently being done in our community around this important initiative.

Diverse Teachers Align and Design Team

By leveraging existing resources, supporting development to fill gaps, and convening stakeholders, the Diverse Teachers Align and Design Team works to advance the 360-degree strategy.

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