Report Finds Persisting Racial Shortfall in the Public School Workforce

A recent report from the University of Pennsylvania has analyzed how the elementary and secondary teaching force has changed since 1987. The results showed that while the United States is becoming more ethnically diverse each year, the teaching profession remains predominately White.

According to the authors, in the 1987-1988 academic year, minority teachers represented only 12.5 percent of the teaching workforce. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 19.9 percent of public elementary and secondary teachers were minorities, but 51 percent of all public school students were members of racial or ethnic minority groups. The authors believe “that this gap is not due to a failure to recruit minority teachers. The gap has persisted in recent years largely because the number of White students has decreased, while the number of minority students has increased,” the report reads.

While the data from 2015-2016 does show an increase in minority teachers, the authors note that the percentages do not take into account the ballooning of the teaching force. In 1987-1988, there were about 290,000 minority teachers employed in public schools, compared to over 760,000 minority teachers in 2015-2016, which represents a 162 percent change since 1987. Additionally, the percent change of teachers has largely outpaced the percent change in minority students (96 percent).

In addition to overall increases in minority public school teachers, the authors found that minority teachers are two to three times more likely than White teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools serving high-poverty, high-minority, and urban communities. The report states “that in spite of competition from other occupations for minority college graduates, the widespread efforts over recent decades to recruit more minority teachers and place them in schools serving disadvantaged and minority student populations appear to have been very successful.”

However, the authors also found that minority teachers depart from schools at increasingly higher rates than White teachers. The authors report that “from the late 1980s to 2012-13, the annual rate of minority teacher turnover from public schools increased by 45 percent, undermining minority teacher recruitment efforts.”

The full report, Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force, can be accessed here.


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