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Do Our Teachers Look Like Our Children?

It is hard to talk about improving schools without talking about improving teachers. But to be clear, teachers are secondary to the parents of our students. Schools are much more reflective of their communities than we talk about, and that reflection can be seen across impoverished areas, city schools that are too crowded, and liberal vs. conservative communities, but that reflection includes the power of parents to influence and educate their children.

Home is the Primary School

The school will never replace the home as the primary source of education. So let’s look at who the parents are from a demographic point of view. The US Census Bureau finished its once-a-decade report of the changing demographics of the United States and a review of just a small part of this data might be interesting to all teachers. For example, the demographics of Houston are quite different from the demographics of teachers

Hispanic or Latino preschool and kindergarten students represented between 48.7% and 53.3% of enrolled students in Harris County and Houston, respectively. But the share of Hispanic or Latino teachers in the same areas was around 27%.

US CENSUS BUREAU, 2020 CENSUS

We have seen this lag in hiring a more diverse workforce in teaching especially in cities. Although there are many reasons for this, a follow up question might be where do we stand in the nation or in each state in terms of the diversity of teachers and those they teach?

The racial and ethnic diversity of the nation’s 6.6 million teachers has increased since 1990 but has not caught up with the diversity of their students, according to a U.S. Census Bureau analysis of employment and population data.

US CENSUS BUREAU, 2020 CENSUS

Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers Lead the Way

So the interesting thing about diversity is that Preschool and Kindergarten teachers have become more diverse than other groups of teachers at the Elementary, Middle, High School and College levels. We can see this set of comparisons in a chart provided by the US Census Bureau, 2020 Census:

Diversity Has Doubled in Ten Years

The trend in teaching is that we are becoming more diverse all the time, at all levels of education, K-16. Besides the 15.6% increase of diversity in the Preschool and Kindergarten classes, other levels of school teachers has doubled:

Nationally, the percentage of teachers who were Asian, Black or African American, or Hispanic or Latino increased across all teaching occupations since 1990, according to the analysis. Among preschool and kindergarten teachers, the share increased by 15.6 percentage points between 1990 and the 2014-2018 period (Figure 1). Similarly, the percentage of Hispanic or Latino elementary and middle school teachers more than doubled from 4.3% in 1990 to 9.5% during the 2014-2018 period.

US CENSUS BUREAU, 2020 CENSUS

Respecting Teachers

This all comes with a profound respect for teachers and the job they are doing during the pandemic. It is easy to say we need more diversity, and much harder to say we respect the diversity that surrounds us, and even hardest of all that we need to become more diverse. In teaching and learning these things take time.

Affinity for Other Groups is getting Stronger

The country’s affinity for other social groups is getting stronger. “Americans generally agree that the future economic success of the United States is dependent on helping minority children succeed. More than three-quarters (77%) of Americans agree that as the number of black and minority children continues to grow, our economic future depends on helping children from these communities be successful (PRRI Research Group),

There is consensus on this issue across racial and ethnic groups. More than three-quarters of white (76%), Hispanic (79%), and black Americans (82%) also endorse the view that the country’s economic future is dependent on helping minority children succeed.

PRRI RESEARCH GROUP
Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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