By Faiza Mahamud and MaryJo Webster
Across Minnesota, as the student population becomes more racially diverse, the number of teachers of color is not keeping pace.
Since the 2006-07 school year — when this year’s high school graduating class was in first grade — the number of K-12 students of color has exploded, while that of teachers of color has barely budged, a Star Tribune analysis of state education data reveals. The disparity is even more pronounced in some rural and suburban school districts.
Education researchers predict Minnesota’s student-teacher racial mismatch likely won’t change for several decades — meaning today’s first-graders will face the same struggle for their entire school careers, too.
Having more teachers of color in classrooms has a positive impact on student learning overall, mounting research shows. A diverse teaching corps can help eliminate racial disparities in school discipline, and over time, it may even help close the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers.
Also, when students of color are matched with teachers who look like them, the students’ perceptions and attitudes about school improve, researchers say, and they are more likely to graduate from high school.