Do All Students Benefit from Having Diverse Teachers?


By Jessica Mousseau
Connecticut’s schools are lacking teachers from Latino and black backgrounds and educators say it’s going to affect how students do in an increasingly global society.
According to the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), nearly one-third of the state’s approximately 560,000 public school students in the state are Latino or African American students, while only 3% of approximately 50,000 teachers and 2% of the state’s 2100 administrators represent those diverse backgrounds.
While those numbers shift dramatically in different cities, the overall average still remains low. The state Department of Education reports that the highest number of minority teachers is in Hartford, which has approximately 1500 teachers, and Bloomfield, which has approximately 200 teachers, each at 25%; 14% in Stamford, which has 1180 teachers and instructors; and 11% in Danbury, which has 670 teachers and instructors.
Hartford has an approximate student population of 21,000 that is 52% Latino. Bloomfield has 2200 students, 80% whom are black. Stamford has 15,000 students and its school population is 32% Latino. Danbury has approximately 10,100 students and 35% are Latino.
According to research from the Alma Exley Scholarship Program, that seeks to bolster the number of minority educators, “Three school districts employ over half of all minority teachers in Connecticut. Almost one-third of the state’s 166 school districts do not employ even one minority professional staff member.”
Woody Exley, director of the scholarship program, wrote in his blog, “According to a national study, only about 17 percent of U.S. public school teachers are persons of color although about 40 percent of students are from minority groups. Connecticut lags the rest of the nation in the diversity of its teaching profession.”
Why Are Minority Teachers Important?
Teachers from diverse backgrounds bring a realistic and a different frame of reference in the  representation of the real world in the classroom. “The ability to understand and appreciate diversity, people both within and across international borders, affects a person’s ability to flourish in the global society,” Tamara Gloster, CREC Education Consultant and chairperson of the Minority Teacher Recruitment Program, said. “Minority teachers bring more then race into the classroom, but a diverse environment that better represents the real world.”
According to a Center for American Progress report, a teacher of color serves as a role model for students and gives them a concrete sense of what diversity is in society and in education. “Teachers of color offer students an opportunity to learn about ethnic, racial and cultural diversity, which readies students for entering the global community,” Kelly Donnelly, Connecticut Department of Education spokesperson said.
 Recruiting Minority Teachers
Recruiting and hiring decisions are made on a state or local level throughout Connecticut. One recruiting program by the RESC Alliance Minority Teacher Recruitment (MTR) Alliance was established through a grant to increase the number of black and Latino educators in Connecticut schools. According to the State Department of Education, there are 49,745 full-time teachers in Connecticut with 3.2% Black and 3.4% Hispanic.
“Despite having access to some of the best teacher preparation programs in the region, well intentioned, intelligent educators continue to struggle to eliminate what continues to be the largest student achievement gap in the nation,” Denise Holter, CREC Minority Teacher Recruiting Program Coordinator, said. “Racial isolation and cultural bias are at the root of these gaps.”
The CREC Minority Teacher Recruiting Program works to increase the number of teachers and administrators of color. This is achieved through recruitment of qualified minority candidates, sponsoring and participating in educational events and teacher retention. Approximately 25% of all new teachers leave the classroom within the first four years, CREC says.
 Photo (c) opensourceway via Flickr