Diversity in American schools is constantly expanding. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2020, minority students comprised over 56% of public school enrollment, up from just 22% in 1972. However, despite this trend, the diversity of teachers and administrators lags behind. As of the 2017-2018 school year, over 79% of public school teachers were white, while just 7% were Black and 9% were Hispanic.
The lack of diversity among teachers and administrators can create a "diversity gap" in American schools, making it harder for minority students to succeed. Students may feel less connected to the school and less motivated to succeed if they feel their cultural backgrounds and experiences are not represented.
A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that Black students who have at least one teacher of their race both reduce Black students’ high school dropout rates and increase the chances of them wanting to and enrolling in college. Students benefit from seeing teachers who look like them and share their cultural backgrounds. Teachers who are culturally responsive can create a more inclusive classroom environment, leading to higher student engagement and academic achievement. Additionally, diverse teachers bring unique perspectives to the classroom that enrich the educational experience for all students.
There are a variety of reasons for the diversity gap among student teachers. These include the low proportion of people of color pursuing careers in education, systemic barriers to entry, and the high turnover rates among teachers of color. Addressing this gap requires a multifaceted approach that emphasizes recruiting and retaining more diverse teachers. This approach includes providing resources and support for these teachers, and promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity throughout the education system.
While progress has been made in recent years to address the student teacher diversity gap, there is still much work to be done. At Enlightapp, we believe a culturally responsive learning environments and building meaningful student teacher relationships can improve school culture and community engagement, but is also closely associated with student success rates. We built our platform to help students connect with their teachers and encourage culturally responsive teaching that caters to each student and school, leading systemic change towards a more equitable and inclusive education system for all students.
To learn more about how to foster student teacher connections, read our blog about how teachers can cultivate a positive learning environment for their students!