Teacher diversity is a growing concern in education system

There’s no question about it – America is becoming increasingly diverse.

The diversity of teachers, however, hasn’t quite caught up, prompting the U.S. Department of Education to convene education experts in Washington D.C. to identify ways of attracting a more diverse pool of students to the teaching profession.

Laura Dinehart, interim executive director of the School of Education and Human Development, will be among the the education experts from the nation’s Hispanic Serving Institutions that will help the Department of Education tackle this concern.

Laura Dinehart

“It is important for children who are culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse to have experiences with teachers that they see as similar to themselves,” Dinehart said. “Recent research suggests that when children are in a classroom where there is a racial, cultural or linguistic match with their teachers, children demonstrate better outcomes.

“But it is also important for children to have experiences with teachers who are diverse as they grow up in a changing and increasingly global environment,” she added. 

According to the National Education Association (NEA), 84 percent of teachers are white and that more than 40 percent of public schools in the United States do not have at least one teacher of color among their ranks.

That was in 2014, which marked the first year where the combined percentage of Hispanic, African American, Asian and other students was larger than the percentage of white students, according to the NEA.

Dinehart and her colleagues will meet with the Department of Education on Sept. 22 and 23.

As a Hispanic Serving Institution, FIU has worked within Miami-Dade County’s diverse population and is the largest producer of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees for Hispanics in the nation.

The university has also championed initiatives to attract more students to the teaching profession including students who are science majors. FIUteach has enrolled more than 200 STEM degree-seeking students and exposes them to the rigor of teaching in today’s classrooms.

In addition, the School of Education and Human Development partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools in the creation of a teaching academy at Ronald Reagan/Doral Senior High School in 2015. The inaugural class of about 20 high school freshmen have now moved on to the second year of the program and a new freshman class joined the academy in August 2016.

“We find that many of our students want to give back to their community and society as a whole,” Dinehart said. “We want to tap into that internal motivator and provide them with the opportunity to give back through teaching.”

While a large portion of the school’s education graduates finds work in the already diverse Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, FIU is also looking to help its diverse graduates find teaching jobs elsewhere in the nation. A new job fair for education students has attracted employers from school districts as far away as North Carolina and Virginia.

“We believe increasing the diversity of teachers requires both local and national collaborations,” Dinehart added. “We know our students want to generally stay close to home so we want to give them opportunities to branch out and expose them to districts that don’t have as diverse a workforce.”