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Minority Teachers Abandon Classrooms

Blacks, Latino Educators Find Other Professions

Stacy M. Brown | 7/23/2014, 3 p.m.
Minorities are significantly underrepresented in public schools, despite the fact that the number of black and Latino students have increased.
While the Center for American Progress report outlined the barriers facing educators of color in the public school system, it also provided recommendations. (Courtesy of the Center for American Progress)

Minorities are significantly underrepresented in public schools, despite the fact that the number of black and Latino students have increased.

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Northwest — “The Leaky Pipeline for Teachers of Color: Getting More Teachers of Color into the Classroom” — revealed that while much has been done in the past 25 years to substantially increase the number of minority teachers, high levels of attrition has offset that success.

“If you spend time in almost any major school district in America today, you will notice that the students often do not look much like the teachers. In fact, in some areas, the students don’t look anything like their teachers,” said Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at CAP. “There is a significant demographic gap in the largely white teaching profession and an increasingly diverse student population,” he said.

Released on July 7, the report revealed that black and Latinos are more likely to work and remain in high-poverty, hard-to-staff urban schools and districts than their white counterparts; in fact, they often consider it their duty to do so. 

What’s more, minority teachers usually are committed to the success of children of color, and they affect a wide range of student academic outcomes, the report’s authors said. They also serve as powerful role models for all students and prove that teaching can be a viable career for minorities.

Deaundra Francis, of Northeast who holds a Master’s of Public Administration, said there are three major hurdles facing minorities who aspire to become teachers.

“After working at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the Teacher Prep Student Support Services program, we found that black, low-income, first-generation college students had barriers that prevented them from completing their education degrees,” Francis said.

“Because it’s required by most states and higher education institutions to pass the Praxis I and II exams as well as all required courses, minorities have not been able to do so and they change their majors to something more compatible,” she said. “The second barrier is the financial and family obligations which may hinder future progress toward an education degree and the third barrier that I propose has to do with culture.”

Melissa Mesku said she once taught at a high school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood and circumstances made it difficult for her to continue her career.

“I’m a woman of color and I taught English as a second language [ESL] for refugee and immigrant students and most of the newer teachers were also minorities at my school,” Mesku said. “I stayed for a year. Coming from a disadvantaged economic background, I simply couldn’t afford to continue to live on a teacher’s salary. If I wanted upward mobility, I had to move on to more lucrative work, especially considering the difficulties and commitments required to work in a hard-to-staff school and spending my own money to clothe and feed students and working 13 hours per day with no resources or books.”

To get a better handle on what’s happening across the country, CAP officials ranked states on the demographic differences between teacher and student populations.