Learning from Minority Serving Institutions key to tackling critical shortage of teachers of color

Image provided by Dr Marybeth Gasman

New research published in The Teacher Educator highlights the continuing shortage of black and ethnic minority teachers in US schools (with only half of schools employing a teacher of color), and suggests that learning about, and investing in, innovative approaches happening at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) is key to diversifying the teacher workforce and improving minority student achievement.

This comes a week after plans have been announced to slash billions from teacher training in US schools and scale back, or end, several programmes that help minority and low-income students.

Strong evidence already exists that teachers of color are instrumental in the success of minority students. Yet, despite this, US schools have made very little progress in recruiting and retaining minority teachers over the past 30 years. Across the country, minority students have become a majority in public schools, while just 17% of the nation’s teaching force are racial and ethnic minorities. This racial imbalance is getting worse and could be holding back millions of young people from achieving their potential.

MSIs play a vital role in educating prospective teachers of color—accounting for over half of all the teaching degrees awarded to Hispanics in 2014, and a third of those awarded to Blacks/African Americans and Asian Americans. Learning from their innovative ideas could help diversify teacher education programs at all colleges and universities across the USA, say the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Boston College.

Dr Marybeth Gasman and colleagues interviewed 80 students, faculty, and staff from four MSIs (California State University, Stone Child College, Jackson State University, and New Mexico State University) that have enjoyed particular success in supporting and producing teachers of color in order to understand what makes their approaches so successful.

The researchers identified a number of key success factors including, for example: using proactive recruitment strategies to reach out to students of color in high school; finding ways to reimburse students for expensive standardized tests; employing a range of retention strategies such as personal mentoring and better access to financial aid and childcare; and developing new models of university-school partnerships.

Author Dr Gasman said “If we are truly serious about diversifying the teaching profession, we must look to the work of Minority Serving Institutions — to not do so sends a message that we know where the answers are but we don’t care to find them.”

Working together to share resources and replicating successful teacher education programs and practices will help to reduce the persistent racial mismatch between students and teachers and close the opportunity gap for minority students.