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Indiana Making Strides in Teacher Diversity

There's a big difference between how many students in America's classrooms are of minority races, and the number of teachers who are, but in Indiana the gap isn't as severe. (Tatiyana Carter)
There's a big difference between how many students in America's classrooms are of minority races, and the number of teachers who are, but in Indiana the gap isn't as severe. (Tatiyana Carter)
February 1, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – Teachers in the United States don't necessarily look like their students, and there's an effort underway to change that.

In the fall of 2010, then U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted the problem and the government launched an initiative, to recruit what he called the next generation of teachers.

Nationally, minority students make up about half of the student population, but in more than 40 percent of public schools there is not a single teacher of color.

Barry Tyler is with Teach For America, which helps recruit teachers in low-income communities. He says children need role models and it helps if their teacher is someone who comes from a similar background.

"This is somebody who looks like me,” he points out. “This person might have come from my neighborhood specifically and you know they were able to dig in and get a great education, and now they're giving back to the community as well. This is something I can see myself doing long-term, too."

The Center for American Progress did a state-by-state analysis and came up with a diversity index that compares the percentage of non-white students to non-white teachers. The national average is a gap of 30 percentage points. Indiana's score is better, at only 20.

The author of the report, Ulrich Boser, says teachers who got hired 20 or 30 years ago are still in the classroom, and it's much different now than it was when they first started their careers.

"There are a lot of rewards in teaching that keep people in the profession for a long time,” he stresses. “And so people that we hired perhaps 20 years ago are still teaching today, and you just don't see that turnover that you see in other professions, which heightens the issue."

Boser says America's classes are becoming more and more diverse.

He says for students it's more than just seeing someone who looks like they do, it's also learning that the world is a diverse place.

"Students today going out into a very diverse workplace, and we need to ensure that they interact with people who are different than them in the classroom that they see role models of people who might have a different background,” he states. “That's a key part of what we value out of education."


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN