Overall, the state’s teacher workforce, about 80 percent white, falls far short of matching the state’s student diversity — more than half of the state’s schoolchildren are students of color — according to a report the state Education Department released Dec. 31 as part of a legislative mandate.
“As New York’s student population has become increasingly diverse, with the population of students of color topping 50 percent, the racial and ethnic composition of the teacher workforce has remained constant,” according to the report.
The state’s teacher-student race gap is even more acute in the Capital Region, where during the 2016-2017 school year about 30 percent of the region’s students were students of color but less than 3 percent of the region’s teachers were teachers of color. Some districts — over 200 statewide and nearly two dozen in the Capital Region — employed only white teachers during the 2016-2017 school year. And some of those districts hadn’t employed a teacher of color in the decade leading up to that school year
That means that 16 percent of the state’s white students and 1 percent of all the state’s students of color “enrolled in districts without a single teacher of color for the 2016-17 academic year.
The state did see a slight increase statewide in the number of teachers of color between 2011 and 2017, but that growth was focused in parts of New York City, Long Island, counties just north of the city and parts of the Southern Tier. The four judicial districts making up the northern part of the state, including the district that encompasses the Capital Region, however, have all seen a decline in the number of teachers of color employed in schools.
The Education Department report comes as state education officials and lawmakers look to bolster educator diversity, focusing on proposals to expand supports for students of color pursuing education degrees, create new paths to teaching careers and review and change districts’ hiring and recruitment practices.
The report recommends school districts prioritize hiring a more diverse workforce, partner regionally to build paths to teaching, strengthen supports for teachers of color after they are hired and review and adapt the way teachers are recruited, hired and welcomed into the district. The report also calls on the Board of Regents to “articulate its own expectations” on the issue of workforce diversity within the state’s public education system.
While highlighting the work of different districts trying to boost teacher diversity, including in the Schenectady City School District, the report concludes that “more intentional and comprehensive approaches are needed to change entrenched practices that perpetuate the status quo.”
“Many districts responding to the department’s survey indicated that targeting diverse candidates is simply not a priority,” according to the report.
The analysis and report demonstrated that the lack of diversity of school and district leaders might itself serve as a barrier to diversifying those districts. In the Capital Region, school district leaders have said diversifying their workforce is a priority as they look to offer students a diverse learning environment to prepare for a diverse world – even if student diversity is sparse in many district.
“We want our kids to have a world-class education, prepared for the world around them,” Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Superintendent Patrick McGrath said in an interview over the summer. “Well, the world around them is diverse.”