Howard: Want to Create a More Diverse Teacher Workforce? Start With the Dedicated Professionals Already Working in Schools

Carlon Howard

The 74 Million

December 2021

Ten years ago, I would have never imagined becoming an educator, let alone even considered a career in education. Growing up, I had few teachers who looked like me and who shared my identity as a Black male. My school district maintained a sizable number of black educators; however, none of the Black teachers taught in the gifted program I participated in for the majority of my K-12 experience. This had a profound effect on how my peers and I internalized who could be academically successful — and who could be a highly effective educator.

Across the country, less than 20 percent of educators identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color, while nearly 50 percent of students do. This problem persists despite the fact that students of color benefit from having at least one teacher who shares their racial identity. Additionally, research confirms that educators of color in general can have a profound effect on the academic achievement of all students.

As schools across the country grapple with systemic racism, communities are turning their attention to teacher recruitment — specifically, recruiting a more racially, linguistically and ethnically diverse teacher workforce. For these efforts to be more successful, educator preparation programs need to create pathways for professionals of color already working in schools who could become excellent educators with additional support. And policymakers need to ensure that legislation enables their success.