Research shows that when minority students have at least one teacher of their own race, especially in the early grades, it boosts their long-term performance. But a shortage of black and Hispanic teachers, both nationally and locally, stands in the way of that goal.
A survey of 20 local schools and districts showed that the percentage of nonwhite teachers was lower than the percentage of nonwhite students in all but one case, and significantly lower in many cases.
According to Ohio Department of Education data, 24% of Centerville schools’ students are nonwhite, but district officials said only 2% of their certified staff (teachers and other licensed professionals) are nonwhite. In Bellbrook-Sugarcreek, with 13% nonwhite students, 175 of 176 certified staff are white. In Eaton (7% nonwhite), all 140 certified staffers are white.
Dayton Public Schools, where 65% of students are black, did not provide staff demographic data. But teachers union President David Romick said of teachers newly hired this summer, 62% self-reported as white, 22% as non-white, and 16% did not say.
“Given our diverse student population, having a diverse teaching staff is important,” Romick said. “Historically, it’s been an issue that those (nonwhite) candidates aren’t walking in the door in the numbers we’d desire.”
A series of studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins University have suggested the benefit of having at least one teacher who looks like you.
Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college, and those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely. More immediately, the studies showed those black students who had a black teacher by the end of third grade were more likely to be described by their fourth-grade teachers as “persistent” or “made an effort” or “tried to finish difficult work.”
“The role model effect seems to show that having one teacher of the same race is enough to give a student the ambition to achieve,” said Nicholas Papageorge, an assistant professor of economics at Johns Hopkins.
Dajae Moncrief, a recent Dunbar High School graduate, said she had “all types of teachers” as a black student at Dayton Public Schools. She said there can be issues between races, but in the end, she wants quality to matter.
“I’d rather have the best teacher regardless of color, she said. “It just matters, are you going to teach me what I need to know?”
But Moncrief’s mother, Dawonna Reynolds, wondered whether black teachers are less susceptible to stereotypes about black students.
“If a young black boy is acting out of control … I think there can be some labeling going on instead of trying to find out what the issue is, or the cause behind the problem,” Reynolds said.
Yellow Springs has eight nonwhite educators out of 53 certified staff (15%), giving it the most diverse group of any non-charter school that responded. According to state data, more than 30% of the district’s student population is black, Hispanic or multiracial.
Another tiny district, Newton in Miami County, was the only respondent where the percentage of nonwhite staff is higher than the percentage of nonwhite students. Superintendent Pat McBride said 3 of 40 certificated staffers are nonwhite, in a district where more than 95 percent of students are white.
Several local schools say they make concerted efforts to hire more minority staff. Centerville Director of Human Resources Dan Tarpey said the district attends Central State University’s fall and spring recruitment fairs and has been working with consultants on diversity issues.
“We invite all minority candidates who we meet at university fairs to the district for second-round interviews and invite them to attend the Dayton Area Education Career Fair in order to provide opportunities for both the candidates and the 16 public school districts in Montgomery County,” Tarpey said.
Vandalia-Butler schools spokeswoman Anaka Johnson said her district also works with Central State, a historically black university, and when the district registers for job fairs, they indicate that they are actively pursuing staff from racial minority groups.
“But a large majority of applicants for our positions are female and Caucasian,” she said.
Franklin and Milton-Union schools, both of which have 94% white student bodies, say race isn’t considered in their hiring. Franklin Superintendent Michael Sander said the district makes no special effort to pursue minority candidates.
“We want to hire the very best teachers regardless of their race,” Sander said. “To my knowledge, we did not have any minority applicants for our teaching positions (this year).”
Bellbrook Superintendent Doug Cozad said his district makes an effort to interview minority candidates and have them as student teachers “as much as the law allows.” Cozad said with three openings this year, and 100-150 applicants per job, Bellbrook interviewed one minority candidate, but the person was not hired.
National data shows fewer students going into the education field overall than in past years, and research suggests that minority teachers who do begin teaching careers have been leaving the profession at higher rates.
Among responding schools, the ones with the highest percentage of nonwhite teachers were the Emerson, Pathway and North Dayton charter schools run by National Heritage Academies. North Dayton School of Discovery, with a student body that is 94% nonwhite, has a 52% nonwhite teaching staff. Pathway and Emerson also have staffs that are more than 21% nonwhite, with double-digit black teachers in each building.
Spokeswoman Leah Nixon said NHA makes every effort to identify a diverse pool of qualified candidates who meet the state’s credentialing requirements.
“However, the demographics of the nation’s teaching professionals make it unlikely that our teaching staff will closely parallel the demographics of a high-minority school,” Nixon said. “We do better at each of our schools than the national average, although we still have room for improvement.”
Dayton Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said DPS currently doesn’t have enough diversity in its teaching staff, but is taking steps in that direction. Lolli said DPS is revamping its Urban Teacher Academy, saying the career tech program had not led to a good stream of teachers for the district.
DPS is also working with Central State on a new “grow your own” program, where 10 rising DPS juniors and seniors per year will start with a summer camp and get supports to help them through college to eventually become DPS teachers.
“It matters because our students need to see teachers of color that are role models, that are successful, (whether they pursue) that profession or other professions,” Lolli said.