The Racial/Ethnicity Gap

The 2014-15 school year will be the first year in U.S. history where the number of minority students (50.3%) outnumbers white students (49.7%) according to this statistic-laden article from the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/student-teacher-demographics_n_5738888.html).  The racial make-up of those students’ teachers, however, is still predominantly white, with a roughly 84% to 16% ratio for the most recently tabulated year (2011).

Although mostly statistics, this article has a brief analysis of the reason for this discrepancy.  Some believe that school districts have done a poor job of recruiting minority teaching candidates; while others claim recruitment isn’t the issue so much as minority teachers’ leaving the profession at a much higher rate, perhaps due to their being employed in more challenging, less-stable, lower-achieving schools.  Regardless of the reason why, every state in the country has a lower percentage of teachers of color than students.

That leads to the question as to how much this matters.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this article is the comments section where many respondents are very angry that anyone would point this out.  Clearly, the quality of instruction matters much more than the race of the teacher delivering that instruction, but race is still a factor.  Everybody needs role models, and not seeing any authority figures who look like you as you spend thirteen years in public schools can’t be a good thing, even if it only matters a little.  This article doesn’t offer any opinions on how important having minority teachers is or what should be done to increase their numbers, but its content is something that should be studied further.   And its comments section would suggest that we still have a hard time even discussing issues of race, much less doing anything about the problems this country still has.

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