New Program to Increase Diversity in Teachers

By Emily Files

Research show that students of color are more likely to succeed if they have at least one teacher who looks like them. But in many urban districts like Milwaukee, there is a mismatch between students and teachers. Teachers are mostly white, and students are mostly black and Hispanic.

Last week, Beats Me — our series dedicated to answering your questions about race, education, innovation and the environment — examined how this racial imbalance impacts student achievement.

Now, we turn to a possible solution by visiting schools that are looking inside their own classrooms to recruit more teachers of color.

Here’s a common scenario in Milwaukee schools. You go to a classroom of mostly black students, and their teacher is white, usually a woman.

But, sometimes there’s another adult in the classroom, called a paraprofessional or teaching assistant. Chances are, that adult is a person of color. Someone like Burgundy May, who has been an educational assistant at charter school Milwaukee College Prep (MCP) for seven years.  

“I think a lot of times as TAs we think that ‘oh, that’s the limit for us,’” May says. “Because of not having the availability to get back in school and needing to work full time.”

There are a lot of people like May in Milwaukee schools – TAs who get glowing reviews but don’t have the time or money to make the leap to teaching.

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