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How to improve teacher diversity in public schools

Research has shown that students of color score higher on standardized tests, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to seek out advanced coursework when they have teachers of color. Unfortunately, while students of color make up about half of US schoolchildren, teachers of color account for only 21 percent of public school educators. So how can we bridge that gap? UC Berkeley Professor of education Travis Bristol shares some insights.

Focus on retention

Schools spend a lot of time focusing on recruiting teachers of color, but fewer resources are allocated towards supporting and retaining these teachers. Teachers of color, especially Black teachers, have far higher rates of turnover compared to their white peers. By implementing diversity training and communicating with teachers of color about the unique challenges they face in the classroom, schools can more effectively retain teachers of color.

Improve leadership and work conditions

Teachers most often leave schools not because of a negative relationship with students, but rather a negative relationship with school leadership. Investing in programs like The Leadership Academy and the Principal Leadership Institute can help inform principals on how to best lead their teaching staff and create a learning environment where students and teachers thrive.

Improve funding equity

It’s no secret that the quality of a school is most often determined by funding. Increasing funding also improves teacher retention rates. States, like California, where funding is allocated not just by property taxes, but also on rates of unhoused students and rates of students whose second language is English, tend to have more even quality of education across the board in public schools.

Rethink teacher training

Like most systems in our modern society, education programs can be interwoven with unintentional biases. Incorporating diversity training in education programs can improve the experience of teachers and students of color while taking steps to avoid placing brand new teachers in particularly difficult teaching environments can reduce turnover.

Students respond positively to role models that look like them. Increasing teacher diversity helps improve academic outcomes as well as equity within education systems.

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