This article, written by Megan Pauly, was originally featured in Delaware Public Media.
For black students, having a teacher who looks like them can significantly improve the student’s chances of going to college, and not dropping out.
Just one black teacher – for black boys in grades 3, 4 or 5 – reduces the probability those students drop out by nearly 40 percent. And just one black teacher in high school increases black students’ expectations of going to college.
Those were findings of a recent study of more than 100,000 black elementary students in North Carolina and Tennessee.
But nationwide – and including in Delaware – there’s a dearth of diverse educators.
“We are really shortchanging all teachers by not giving them diverse teachers,” said Atnre Alleyne, Executive Director for the Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now.
According to the Rodel Foundation, only 11% of Delaware public school teachers are African American, 2% are Latino or Hispanic and 1% are of a different ethnic group.
The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now hosted a discussion about this topic a few months ago. Alonna Berry with Delaware’s Teach for America moderated the discussion.
“We heard from some of the folks who teach in Sussex County talk about often being the only people of color in their schools as an educator and what that means around how students view you, how fellow educators view you…” Berry said.
That discussion was just the first in DelawareCAN’s Educators of Color Council – focusing on the unique challenges educators of color face, and is now held monthly.
Alleyne says schools also need to do a better job recruiting a diverse workforce.
“You need to put money behind looking for teachers of color,” he said. “So I think you need that, and if you have a person in the district, they’ll go to straight to black colleges and recruit them.”
Some Delaware school districts are trying to beef up their efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce. Colonial School District hosted an Educators of Color conference last week to start the conversation.