CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

Minority Teacher Turnover

For several decades, shortages of minority teachers have been a big issue for the nation’s schools. Policymakers and recent presidents have agreed that our elementary and secondary teaching force “should look like America.” But the conventional wisdom is that as the nation’s population and students have grown more diverse, the teaching force has done the opposite—grown more white and less diverse.

The result, we are told, is that minority students in the nation’s schools increasingly lack minority adult role models, contact with teachers who understand their racial and cultural background, and often qualified teachers of any background, because white teachers eschew schools with large percentages of minorities. The minority teacher shortage in turn, we are told, is a major reason for the minority achievement gap and, ultimately, unequal occupational and life outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Beginning in 2009, with support from the Flora Family Foundation, CPRE researchers Richard Ingersoll and Henry May set out to examine whether recent efforts to recruit minority teachers have been successful, and whether the teaching force grown more diverse? And, if not, why not?

The study analyzes two decades worth of data from the late 1980s to 2009 from a large U.S. Department of Education national survey of teachers and administrators. The objective is to use the best national data available to ground the debate over the extent of shortages. The study asks the following questions:
• Have the numbers of minority teachers been going up or down? What changes have there been, if any, in the numbers of minority students and numbers of minority teachers in the school system, and how does this compare with white students and teachers?

• Where are minority teachers employed? Are minority teachers more likely than white teachers to be employed in schools serving high-poverty, urban, and high-minority student populations?

• How does minority teacher retention compare to that of white teachers, and has it been going up or down? We were surprised by what we found. From the viewpoint of the minority teacher shortage and of the efforts to address it, there is both good news and bad news. (For a detailed research report, see Ingersoll & May, 2011).