REPORT: The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce

Archived Information

REPORT: The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce

New U.S. Department of Education Report Finds Holes Throughout Teacher Pipeline
May 6, 2016

NOTE: The National Summit on Teacher Diversity, taking place today, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET, at the U.S. Department of Education, will be livestreamed. The agenda can be found here:

The U.S. Department of Education released a report today titled “The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce,” in conjunction with the National Summit on Teacher Diversity held at the Department. The report reviews trends in the diversity of elementary and secondary school educators, and examines the teacher pipeline from enrollment in postsecondary education to entrance into the teaching workforce and beyond.

“A diverse teacher workforce isn’t just a nicety—it’s a real contributor to better outcomes in our schools, workplaces, and communities,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. “It’s important for students of color to have role models who look like them and share common experiences. It’s just as important for all students to see teachers of color in leadership roles in their classrooms and communities. We must work together to support states and districts as they work to prepare, hire, support, and retain a more diverse teacher workforce.”

“The AFT [American Federation of Teachers] is fully committed to continuing our work to promote the diversity of the teaching workforce,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Teachers of color are crucial role models for all students, and while the data released today shows that we still have much work ahead, we are committed to finding ways to better prepare/support teachers of color or teachers from diverse backgrounds.”

The report highlights a lack of racial diversity among teachers at public elementary and secondary schools across the nation. Less than one in five U.S. public school teachers—18 percent—are individuals of color, while approximately half—49 percent—of public elementary and secondary school students are individuals of color. Since teachers of color can be positive role models for all students in breaking down negative stereotypes and in preparing students to live and work in a multiracial society, this diversity gap suggests that the U.S. public school system is not reaping the known benefits we could experience if we had greater diversity in the teacher workforce.

“It is essential to continue our work to help increase the diversity of the educator workforce,” said Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard. “We know great teachers come from all backgrounds, but we also believe that teachers who share the background of their students have the potential to make a profound additional impact. We are deeply committed to finding ways to better prepare and support educators and leaders from diverse backgrounds; the data released today only confirms the importance of these efforts.”

The report reveals decreasing diversity at multiple points across the teacher pipeline through which teachers progress through postsecondary education, teacher preparation programs, hiring, and retention. The report finds that:

  • While bachelor’s degrees are almost always a prerequisite to entering the teaching force, bachelor’s degree students are less diverse than high school graduates.  Thirty-eight percent of bachelor’s degree students were students of color, compared to 43 percent of public high school graduates.
  • Students of color are underrepresented in teacher preparation programs. Students of color made up 38 percent of the postsecondary student population, but only 25 percent of those enrolled in teacher preparation programs.
  • Bachelor’s degree completion rates for students who major in education are lower for black and Hispanic students than white students. The completion rate gap between black and white bachelor’s degree students majoring in education is approximately 30 percentage points (73 percent versus 42 percent) and the completion rate gap between Hispanic and white education majors is more than 20 percentage points (73 percent versus 49 percent).
  • The teaching workforce is overwhelmingly homogenous (82 percent white, 2 percent black males)

"We're committed to continuing our work to increase the diversity of the teaching workforce. We know that teachers of color are crucial role models for all students," said National Education Association Vice President Becky Pringle. "The data released today shows that we still have much work ahead, so must continue to invest resources into finding ways to recruit and support teachers of color."

The report also examines programs that produce a relatively higher proportion of teacher candidates who are individuals of color. For example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) enroll a small proportion of individuals who are preparing to be teachers (2 percent), yet a significant percent of all African American teacher candidates attend HBCUs (16 percent). In addition, alternative routes to teacher certification tend to enroll more racially diverse populations of candidates than traditional teacher preparation programs.

Lastly, the report serves as a call to action for stakeholders including postsecondary institutions, K-12 schools and districts, and others to do more to support teachers of color at all points across the teacher pipeline so that students in U.S. public schools can yield the benefits of a diverse teaching force.

Today’s summit was an important step in the efforts to examine the need for a more diverse teaching force, learn from each other’s best practices, and develop commitments to recruiting, supporting and retaining teachers of color. The summit is hosted by the Department, the American Federation of Teachers, the Albert Shanker Institute, the National Education Association, and Teach For America.

Secretary King has prioritized supporting and lifting up the teaching profession and is committed to supporting efforts to increase diversity in the teaching profession so that our teaching force more closely reflects the increasingly diverse student population it serves.