SCHOOL DISTRICTS, COUNTY offices of education and teacher preparation programs need the state to help them collaborate to diversify the teacher workforce, according to a report released by the educator diversity advisory task force assembled by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
“It is happening in very siloed ways that undermine a systemwide or comprehensive approach to diversifying the teacher workforce, but they don’t know or are unaware of how to deepen that work, because it’s happening in silos,” said Travis J. Bristol, a UC Berkeley education professor and chairman of the advisory group.
The group also recommended the state provide sustained funding to support programs to diversify the teacher and school administration workforces, create a research and advisory board that would produce an annual report on the state’s progress toward diversifying the education workforce and provide guidance to school districts on how to use grant funds to develop programs to recruit and retain teachers of color.
Increasing the number of teachers of color in California has been a top priority for Thurmond since he started the job in 2019. The California Department of Education defines teachers of color as all teachers who are not white, according to department officials.
Having more teachers with diverse backgrounds in the classroom has a positive impact on learning for students of color and for closing achievement gaps, according to a study from the Learning Policy Institute. Students of color generally have higher test scores, are more likely to graduate from college and to succeed in college when they have teachers of color in the classroom they can look to as role models.
This doesn’t happen nearly enough. In 2021 about 61 percent of K-12 teachers were white, compared with 22 percent of students, according to the California Department of Education. In contrast, more than half of California students were Latinx, compared with 21 percent of teachers.
A year of meetings
The educator diversity advisory group, made up of K-12 teachers and administrators and faculty at university teacher preparation programs, as well as education researchers, nonprofit leaders and state education officials, spent a year meeting virtually with educators across the state.
It found that one of the biggest hurdles for teacher candidates is the cost of earning a credential and taking exams, paired with unpaid student teaching, Bristol said.
“There could be some way to compensate aspiring teachers through student teaching,” he said. “Also, if the state is going to do this and do this well, it can’t be a one-off grant or a grant that only lasts a year, the county offices and local education agencies need a runway,” he said.
The group also recommended that the state launch a public awareness campaign to encourage people of color to join the teaching profession. Bristol thinks Hollywood should help.
“There is no better place than the state of California — ground zero for the entertainment industry — to enlist Hollywood types to amplify and promote the transformative work teachers can do to impact the lives of students,” he said.
The task force will hold two more webinars. On April 21 the webinar will focus on how state and federal funds can be used to diversify the teacher workforce. On May 4 a webinar will feature programs that are successfully diversifying the education workforce.