According to research students learn best from educators who share a common culture or background with them. This fact does not imply that students of color can only learn if their teacher reflects their own ethnicity. It does, however, emphasize the need for cultural awareness in the classroom and diversity of our teacher workforce. Too often students are taught by educators with cultural views that contrast with positive educational outcomes for students of color. If educators do not believe in diversity and equity then how can we expect them to go above and beyond in the education of our children?
For minority students teachers of color often serve as a default mentor or life coach. These relationships are invaluable to the intellectual and emotional growth of our youth. Dropout rates and disengagement for students of color are regularly preceded by years of falsely believing that no one cares. Diversifying and educating the current workforce can reverse this trend with benefits for all stakeholders.
Although a belief in diversity and inclusion should not serve as a litmus test for new hires, there are ways we can ensure districts are responsive to the needs of all their students. At Equity4Education we propose the following:
- Petition major inner-city school districts to expand their searches outside of their home state if a teacher candidate of color is not available.
- Request that school districts offer professional development for cultural awareness and incentives for teachers who take courses designed to help students of color.
- Demand that districts commit to a diverse workforce and offer transparency in hiring practices.