Digging Deeper: Does Teacher Diversity Matter?

December 30th, 2016

Category: Digging Deeper

“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.

Kuumba classroom

There is a growing body of research suggesting that a more diverse teacher workforce increases student wellbeing and academic success. However, in Delaware—and the nation—the teacher workforce is far less racially diverse than the student populations they serve.


Here we’ll explore:

  • What does research say about the benefits of teacher diversity?
  • What is the current state of educator diversity in Delaware?
  • Who is taking action?


(Note: For the purposes of this “Digging Deeper” analysis, we will focus specifically on teacher student and racial demographics—one of the few comparative attributes we can measure with publicly available data.)


What Does Research Say about the Benefits of Teacher Diversity?


A more diverse teacher workforce could help narrow the achievement gap. According to research evidence, placing students with teachers of the same ethnicity/race could have implications for closing the achievement gap:


Increasing access to high-level coursework: Research from the University of Colorado examining the Impact of Black Teacher Role Models on Rigorous Math Taking showed that black math teachers had a positive impact on the likelihood of a student enrolling in advanced math courses.


There are social and emotional advantages to having teacher diversity. According to the Brookings Institute, some of the social and emotional benefits include:

  • Higher expectations of students of color from teachers. A Harvard University study examined teacher bias and expectations as a self-fulfilling prophecy and found that teacher expectations on student behavior can be powerful influencers for student performance and aspirations. This could have positive implications for gifted and talented programs, where students of color are grossly underrepresented.
  • Teachers serving as advocates for students. Studies have shown that teachers of color serves as advocates and mentors for students of color by helping them navigate school culture.


What is the Current State of Educator Diversity In Delaware?

Delaware teachers and principals are less diverse than the students they serve. According to the Delaware Department of Education data, students of color represent more than half of Delaware’s student population while teachers of color comprise only about 14 percent of the teacher workforce. These gaps are also evident at the district level.

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Who is taking action?

Diversifying Delaware’s educator workforce could positively impact student success. There is a growing body of research indicating that teacher diversity can have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement and social and emotional learning. Furthermore, action is underway to make Delaware’s—and the nation’s—teacher workforce more diverse.


  • Preparing more diverse teachers – The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and Delaware teacher preparation programs are working to increase the diversity of aspiring teachers. Diversity is a component of the new Teacher Prep Program Scorecards. Teacher prep programs are being scored on their efforts to recruit a more diverse student body. This year, the top three programs with the most diversity were Teach For America, Delaware Transitions to Teaching Partnership, and Alternative Routes to Certification. Each program’s proportion of non-white candidates was above 30 percent, while the state average is only 21 percent.


  • Delaware specific research and analysis – DDOE’s Delaware Talent Practices Report analyzes educator recruitment, hiring, and retention methods in Delaware schools. It also offers some best practices for recruitment of diverse teachers. The report advocates for districts to differentiate their strategies in recruiting diverse teacher candidates, and highlights best practices.



  • At the national level, teacher diversity has been addressed by the U.S. Department of Education through a series of programs and reports—the latest of which is highlighted here. The National Teacher Summit on Teacher Diversity was held in spring 2016, focusing on how to fill the teacher pipeline with more racially/ethnically diverse candidates. The summit also marked the release of The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce report, which highlights the lack of diversity in schools, makes the case for the benefits of a diverse teacher workforce, and even offers analyses of programs that are getting it right.

Shyanne Miller


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Author: Bridgette Boody