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Seeking Diversity Among Maryland's Teachers

Programs have been launched in Maryland to make the teaching profession more racially diverse. (Kiyana Carter)
Programs have been launched in Maryland to make the teaching profession more racially diverse. (Kiyana Carter)
February 1, 2016

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

But Maryland is still at the bottom of the list when it comes to teacher diversity.

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

At Teach For America, Tom Milteer's job is to recruit potential teachers at Maryland colleges and universities. He says children respond better if their role model is someone who comes from a similar background.

"Students being able to see that person as a mirror, really, in terms of being what's possible for themselves, basically seeing what's possible versus being told what's possible," he explains.

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. In Maryland, it's 40.

Center spokesman Ulrich Boser says there are more minority students in the U.S. every year, yet the same teachers who got hired 20 or 30 years ago are still in the classroom, and they tend to be predominately white females.

"There are a lot of rewards in teaching that keeps people in the profession for a long time,” he states. “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 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.

Some school districts in Maryland have started efforts to tackle the problem. Howard County launched a first-of-its-kind program offering full scholarships to low-income students who commit to three years of employment in the Maryland school system after graduation.

"Students today are 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 in the classroom who might have a different background,” Boser stresses. “That's a key part of what he value out of education."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD