Deep inside a new report about this country’s teachers is this interesting tidbit: “The proportion of K-12 teachers who are white has dropped from 91 percent in 1986 to 84 percent in 2011.”
While the trend might be positive in terms of increasing diversity among the ranks of teachers, it still means only 16 percent of teachers are non-white. Broken down a little more, the numbers in the report by the National Center for Education Information show that just 6 percent of teachers are Latino.
Compare that number to the quickly increasing number of minority students in schools. A report from the Children’s Defense Fund, which outlines challenges facing American youth, showed that 45 percent of children are non-white. By 2019, children of color are expected to be in the majority.
In nine states and the District of Columbia, children of color already constitute a majority, and Latino children account for one in four children in the U.S. The number of Latino children is steadily increasing, while the number of white children has decreased every year since 1994.
But as the National Center for Education Information survey showed, the nation’s teaching ranks do not reflect these changing demographics. In Texas, Latinos make up nearly half the student population and are growing in numbers, yet only 22 percent of teachers there are Hispanic.
What effect does that have on learning? Do Latino children respond better when their teachers personally reflect their cultures and experiences? Are Latino teachers more likely to incorporate materials and lessons that appeal to diverse student populations? Do Latino parents work better with Latino teachers?
It is worth taking a look at the demographics in your school district. Examine the breakdown and trends among teachers, administrators and students. Is there a gap between the make-up of students and their teachers? How does that translate into the classrooms?
Perhaps a school with few Latino teachers has found a way to bridge the cultural gaps successfully–or is working on doing so. Perhaps a district with a growing Latino student enrollment is actively recruiting Latino teachers. Both could make for meaty stories about an ongoing issue: How will school districts adapt to the continued growth of the nation’s Latino population?