National Council on Teacher Quality: Increasing teacher diversity requires a sustained commitment

By: - August 10, 2023 2:00 pm
Boy in a classroom

A bill advancing in the state House would grant salary supplements to school social workers who have attained a master’s degree or higher. Photo: Getty Images

In North Carolina, there’s a 30 percentage point gap between students of color and teachers of color, according to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Students of color are 55% of the state’s public school enrollment and teachers 25% of teachers identify as people of color.

The teacher/student diversity numbers for North Carolina closely mirror those nationally. Students of color make up more than 50% of all public school students. Roughly 20% of teachers are nonwhite.

“This is a policy area that will require sustained commitment from states to achieve progress and increase the number of teachers of color in the workforce,” the study’s authors wrote.

Reputable studies show children of color benefit academically when they have teachers who look like them.

“Teachers of color have a positive impact on all students and make a particularly pronounced difference in the lives of students of color,” the authors wrote. “For students of color, having a teacher of color can increase academic achievement and advanced course-taking, reduce discipline incidents, improve attendance, increase high school graduation and college-going, as well as increase social-emotional outcomes like grit and sense of self-efficacy.”

Titled “State of The States 2023: Policies to Increase Teacher Diversity,” the study exams the extent to which states prioritize teacher diversity in policy and in funding. It looks at efforts to build a stronger pipeline of future teachers; incentives to attract candidates of color; support to retaining and develop teachers of color and  data to set goals and track progress.

The authors noted that North Carolina is one of seven states that have set publicly stated goals to increase teacher diversity. The state set a goal to increase the number of educators admitted into the state educator’s preparation programs by 15% each year. It has also set a goal to retain 95% of state educators of color.

Those goals stem from the Developing a Representative & Inclusive Vision for Education (DRIVE) Taskforce created by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019 to examine strategies to diversify the state’s teacher workforce.

The task force’s final report laid out 10 recommendations to improve teacher diversity in North Carolina that include ensuring affordable access to teacher preparation programs, creating more entry points in the educator pipeline based on models with success in recruiting teachers of color, and embedding diversity goals in key performance indicators.

The study’s authors also noted that North Carolina is among a handful of states to recognize the importance of minority-serving colleges and universities to increase the number of teachers of color. The state joins Alabama, Maryland and Virginia as the four that have invested additional funds in minority-serving institutions’ teacher preparation programs, the study’s authors found.

Over the past two decades, according to the report, minority-serving institutions have prepared 38% of the nation’s Black teachers, 51% of Hispanic teachers, 51% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander teachers and nearly 35% of all American Indian/Alaskan Native teachers.

In 2021, the North Carolina Teaching Fellow Commission selected Fayetteville State University, NC A&T University and NC Pembroke to serve as partner institutions for the NC Teaching Fellows Program as part of the state’s strategy to increase minority interest in the teaching profession.

The Teaching Fellows program is a competitive, merit-based forgivable loan program providing tuition assistance of up to $8,250 per year for qualified students committed to teaching special education, science, technology, engineering or math in a North Carolina public school. The program is designed to recruit, prepare and support future teachers who attend institutions of higher education in North Carolina.

Here’s a summary of what NCTQ found:

  • States have created a variety of pathways to prepare new teachers, but states rarely use them to explicitly attract teachers of color.  For example, six states fund post-baccalaureate teacher residencies, with only three—Louisiana, Mississippi, and New York—explicitly using the strategy as part of their efforts to increase teacher diversity.
  • To increase their overall teacher workforce, 46 states have established or funded high school pipeline programs, while 21 of these states have done so with the goal of explicitly increasing teacher workforce diversity.
  • Few states use financial incentives to explicitly attract teachers of color.
    • Thirty-four states fund scholarships for teacher candidates, but only 17 of those do so with the explicit goal of increasing teacher diversity.
    • Twenty-seven states use loan forgiveness as a teacher recruitment/retention strategy, of which only nine have an explicit goal of increasing teacher diversity.
    • About half of states (24), provide differentiated pay for hard-to-staff schools, which tend to have greater proportions of teachers of color.
  • Thirty-six states have funded or established state-level initiatives to support educator retention in general, but only 14 of those have an explicit focus on retaining teachers of color.
    • While many states provide general funds for retention initiatives without naming a specific approach, those that offer explicit strategies primarily focus on mentorship and affinity groups (where teachers can connect and find support among peers who share a salient characteristic, such as racial/ethnic identity).

Recent surveys by the RAND Corporation and Educators for Excellence show that educators of color believe increased pay and higher starting salaries, better benefits, supportive administrators, and loan forgiveness and service scholarships are among the strategies states can us to make the teaching profession more attractive to educators.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.