In U.S., Pa. students are getting more diverse. Their teachers aren’t | Monday Morning Coffee

The teaching profession has seen an exodus. Culture wars are fueling it among teachers of color, data shows

January 24, 2022 7:14 am

Photo by Getty Images

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

First up, the good news: America’s teacher workforce has grown more diverse over the past three decades, Axios reports. But now the bad news: It hasn’t changed fast enough to keep up with swiftly diversifying classrooms.

Citing newly released Census data, covering 2014-18, Axios reports that while three out of four public school teachers were white, nearly half of preschool to high school students were students of color.

The situation is much the same in Pennsylvania, according to data compiled by Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based research organization. Between 2014 and 2020, teachers of color increased from 5.4 percent to 6 percent of the teacher workforce. At the same time, the percentage of students of color increased from 30.5 percent of all students statewide to nearly 36 percent.

Moreover, in 2019-20, half of all public schools, and 37 percent of the state’s 500 school districts only employed white teachers, according to Research for Action’s data. And in 2019-20, the share of students of color statewide was six times greater than the share of teachers of color, which was more than twice the national average, according to Research for Action.

As Axios reports, recruitment is only part of the problem.

Experts tell Axios that teachers of color are leaving the profession faster than their white counterparts. And that exodus is fueled, at least in part, by the heated culture war battles being fought in school board meetings and state capitols over racial equity, book bans, and other matters.

Andrea Gosfield, a Black parent and attorney in the Lower Merion schools in Montgomery County told Axios that lack of diversity makes it tough for students of color and their parents to speak freely during debates over such issues because “we may not feel safe.”

(Image via Research for Action)

Here’s why all this matters: Research conclusively shows that exposure to teachers of color benefits all students and particularly students of color.

The positive outcomes from that exposure include, according to Research for Action:

  • “Higher expectations for students of color,
  • “Positive academic & non‐academic outcomes for students of color, such as reduced absenteeism, increased admission to gifted programs, and lower dropout rates;
  • “Minimize[d] chances that students of color are subjected to discipline that removes them from school;
  • “Positive long‐term outcomes for students of color, like a decreased probability of dropping out in high school and an increased likelihood to aspire to enroll in a four‐year college,” and
  • The “[mitigation of] implicit bias in all students (i.e. preconceived attitudes and stereotypes that unconsciously affect people’s understanding and decisions).”

But first, school districts need to staunch the exodus and improve recruiting — both nationally and here in Pennsylvania.

“Although the lack of teachers of color is a national problem, it is particularly acute in Pennsylvania,” Research for Action wrote in an April 2018 research brief.

“The imbalance between teacher and student demographics in Pennsylvania is among the most extreme in the nation,” researchers wrote.

“And the problem appears to be worsening,” the brief found. “According to [the Pennsylvania Department of Education], African American enrollment in post‐secondary education majors has decreased by 60% since 1996, and the number of African American graduates in education has decreased by 71% since 2000.”

Those “strikingly low numbers,” create “‘significant challenges for schools looking to increase the number of teachers of color on staff,” the research continued.

Zooming out to the national level: “People are entering the front door and exiting the side door pretty rapidly,” Sharif El-Mekki, the founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development, told Axios.

Districts need to look at “aggressive” recruiting efforts, El-Mekki told Axios.

“We see diverse teachers are leaving earlier” El-Mekki told Axios. “Those attrition rates will never be able to accelerate the diversity or even attempt to keep pace with a growing diverse student population.”

While the teaching profession has suffered from recruitment and retention issues, the ultimate losers here are students — no matter where they live.

“There is research that shows that all students benefit from having a diverse teacher population,” Gosfield, the suburban Philadelphia parent told Axios. “It teaches you to engage with everyone, with people who look different from you.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m, the Senate convenes at its customary 1 p.m.
9:30 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
10 a.m., 140 Main Capitol: Performance-Based Budget Board
10 a.m., B31 Main Capitol: House Liquor Control Committee
10:30 a.m, 523 Irvis: House Education Committee
10:30 a.m, 205 Ryan: House Professional Licensure Committee
11 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee
12 p.m., Harrisburg Hilton: Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, addresses this month’s Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon.
12:30 p.m., 461 Main Capitol: Senate Aging & Youth Committee
Call of the Chair: House Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate State Government Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ryan Mackenzie=
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a preposterous $6,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Brittney Rodas, of UFCW Local 1776, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Dayglow to get the working week started. It’s ‘Can I Call You Tonight?

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Pittsburgh Penguins got past the Winnipeg Jetswinning 3-2 in a shoot-out on Sunday afternoon. The win marked the Pens’ fifth straight victory.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.