The Need for a Diverse Teaching Staff

"It is also important to expose children to a diverse teaching staff within each of our schools. Every child has a basic right to a great public school with a qualified and caring staff, including educators who look like them,

I am skeptical of this claim, and more generally, the idea that a diverse teaching staff is essential to close the achievement gap.

I'm planning to teach in economically-disadvantaged public schools, and considering joining the highly selective TNTP Teaching Fellows. They claim to hold the highest standards of any training program in America. The students they intend to help tend to be minorities. I see nothing on their site which suggests a commitment to teacher diversity.

How important is teacher diversity in closing the achievement gap?

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    I'll post this as a comment instead of an answer -- I see nothing on their site which suggests a commitment to teacher diversity There are racially-diverse photographs on the home page and the next page. Also, tntpteachingfellows.org/why-teaching-fellows#henry-bradford says, "Henry shifted his career to the classroom to serve as a “role model and symbol of hope” for other young African-American students and to show all young students that they can excel in math and science."
    – ChrisW
    Sep 16, 2013 at 2:25
  • @ChrisW a commitment to diversity seems to require a public statement of that. For example, see this Diversity Statement and this. I think you'll agree that a few racially-diverse photographs and an example of a black teacher is far from a Diversity Statement. The point I'm getting at is, why doesn't TNTP bother with one?
    – Michelle
    Sep 16, 2013 at 3:42
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    This strikes me as being a very subjective type of question baring some board study. Also, the question title is still an incomplete sentence.
    – rjzii
    Sep 16, 2013 at 4:10
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    sounds like an excuse for political correctness and forcing "correct ratios" of racial groups and sexes among employees. Teachers (and anyone else) should be hired based on competence rather than the colour of their skin.
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2013 at 7:01
  • Well the first report linked on the NEA website mentions the “dearth of meaningful research on the number and impact of teachers of color”. Unfortunately the sources it cites don’t seem to be freely available online (which sucks). In particular, I would try finding the monograph “The Presence and Performance of Teachers of Color in the Profession” – that should answer your question. Sep 16, 2013 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


A 2004 report linked on the NEA’s teacher diversity website lists the evidence that supports that teacher diversity does indeed impact on closing the achievement gap.

In particular, they highlight that

  • Students of color tend to have higher academic, personal, and social performance when taught by teachers from their own ethnic groups, [and]
  • Teachers from different ethnic groups have demonstrated that when students of color are taught with culturally responsive techniques and with contents-pecific approaches …, their academic performance improves significantly

And they say this about the data-gathering methodology:

Most of the data currently available on connections between teachers of color and student performance are generated from small-scale qualitative research involving single or multiple case studies. These data focus on a number of significant, though under-recognized, school achievement markers, including attendance records, disciplinary referrals, dropout rates, overall satisfaction with school, self-concepts, cultural competence, and students’ sense of the relevance of school.

While they themselves give the caveats “small-scale” and “qualitative” and don’t seem to consider other, more conventional markers such as grades and rates of conversion to higher education, this looks like it might be a valid conclusion.

However, the report doesn’t provide an itemisation of the cited studies (which, by the way, is inexcusable). A lot of the evidence seems to have been collected in a monograph [1]. Unfortunately I’m unable to check this out myself since I couldn’t obtain access to it online.

  • [1] Gay & al., “The Presence and Performance of Teachers of Color in the Profession”, 2003.
  • I wonder whether they also measured the effect of having black teachers teach white students (and other combinations), or whether the results of those studies were considered "racist" for not matching the confirmation bias inherent in the statements the report makes.
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2013 at 10:00
  • @jwenting Yeah, it’s really hard to assess the completeness and validity of these results without having access to the original sources. All I can do here is report what they claim. I hope somebody else with more knowledge can chime in. Sep 16, 2013 at 10:40
  • This seems to be saying the opposite of the claim. That students do better when they are kept with in their own ethinic group rather than performing better when exposed to many different ethnic groups.
    – Chad
    Sep 17, 2013 at 15:31
  • @Chad Maybe. I’ve tried to keep interpretations to a minimum. However, I think the (reasonable) default assumption here is that you cannot (and don’t want to!) separate students by race, and thus a mixture of students performs best when exposed to a mixture of educators. Sep 17, 2013 at 17:35
  • +1 - the "study" seems to be complete and utter crap for a number of reasons (anything valuing "self-concepts, cultural competence" over "3Rs" is not "education" in my book), but you have very clearly outlined that without succumbing to "it's a study so it must be correct" bias and zeroing in on methodology. It would be even better if you dug up a study that tried to examine the opposite zero hypotheses, but such a study is extremely unlikely to exist given the educational establishments' politically correct stancce
    – user5341
    Oct 4, 2013 at 12:24

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