The ratio between minority teachers and their minority students has become an ever-growing gap. The low amount of minority teachers present in schools combined with the growing minority population in America has created a constant cycle and has resulted in a lack of teachers of color. In order to break this cycle, our education system needs to find a way to both get and keep teachers of color in classrooms.

By not seeing minorities represented in the teaching position, student minorities don’t picture themselves as teachers and the cycle begins there. The government estimates that minority students have become the majority in public schools, so we need to start teaching to the majority.

Having teachers of color in the classroom is extremely important to all students. For some, it would mean being able to identify with the teacher and having someone with similar experiences to help them as a mentor. For others, it may mean having someone who can open their eyes to different beliefs, cultures, perspectives and more.

Some research has indicated that there is a small effect in students’ academic achievements when they have a teacher they can identify with. This effect is small, however. The real impact is on the students’ perspectives and ability to relate to the teacher in front of them.

A report by the Center for American Progress stated, “Teachers of color provide real-life examples to minority students of future career paths . . . And while there are effective teachers of many races, teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for engaging students of similar backgrounds.”

According to The New York Times, over 80 percent of teachers are white. To put this in perspective, in Boston, there is only one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Hispanic students and one black teacher for every 22 black students. However, the reported ratio for white teachers and students is one white teacher to fewer than three white students.

In New York City, The New York Times reported, 85 percent of the students were racial minorities and only 40 percent of the teachers were minorities. In Washington, two thirds of the students are black and only half of the teachers are minorities.

According to The StarTribune of Minnesota, only four percent of the state teachers are not white. They report that the rate of racial diversity in schools is increasing one percent each year and the teaching profession just isn’t keeping up.

Thomas S. Dee, a professor of Education at Stanford University, said, “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you.” Students will subconsciously internalize messages like this, which essentially starts the cycle of not having teachers of color represented in schools.

The cycle moves on and follows these students as they move through their education. When it comes to their senior year of high school, some minority students will choose to go on to college.

As stated by The Boston Globe, most of these students will be the first ones in their families to go to college and this means that they will most likely be paying for the majority if not all of their schooling on their own.

From there, students choose a major in which they know they will be able to get themselves out of their debt from college. When thinking of a career in which pay is high, teaching is not going to be the first one to come to mind. This is another reason The New York Times reports is discouraging the growth of colored teachers.

In addition, The New York Times states that black college students are more likely than whites to graduate. Therefore, from the pool of students who choose to go to college, the amount that don’t graduate combined with the amount that don’t choose teaching shrink the pool of possible teachers to represent the minorities in schools drastically.

According to The New York Times and the StarTribune, colleges have started offering scholarships to minority students who choose the education profession. Organizations such as and Teach for America have begun to target and recruit colored teachers.

States have started to change the out-of-state license requirements for teachers so recruitment will be easier. School districts have started to encourage minority paraprofessionals to seek certification, help pay off debt, teach faculty how to be culturally respectful, improve their language instruction and actively recruit teachers of minorities.

We need not only to recruit, employ and retain teachers of color in the classrooms of America but also to teach the minority students of America to imagine themselves in careers they may not see other minorities in today. Otherwise, we will have a never-ending cycle of white teachers in classrooms in which the majority of students are minority students.

Taylor Howe can be contacted at

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