Is There Really A Teacher Shortage?

According to the recent Hechinger Report, in 2003, the seven universities in New Orleans handed out 265 degrees in education. By 2015, only 93 were awarded. This trend mirrors what is happening nationally – the teacher supply is dwindling, even though demand is still high. Salary, student behavior, and working conditions are some of the reasons that keep many from choosing teaching as a career. This is especially true for people of color. Over the past decade, the diversity gap between teachers and students has emerged to be a significant problem in education. For the first time in public education’s history, the majority of public school students are of color (45%) and are economically disadvantaged (51%).

This is a far cry from what the teaching force looks like. The 3.3 million teachers in the US are 82% white and 75% female; 8% Hispanic, 7% black and 3% Asian and other minority groups. Only 2% represent black males. In urban cities like New Orleans, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, where there are concentrated populations of African Americans and Hispanics, their white teaching force increased while the teacher of color workforce decreased. In New Orleans alone, the percentage of black teachers went from 72% pre Katrina to 49% in 2015; 87% of NOLA’s public school children are of color. Why is this important? Teachers of color, who serve as influential role models and advocates for minority students, have a more favorable view of students of color than their white counterparts.

The “stereotype threat” is almost not present. Teachers of color are less likely to hold unconscious bias views of their students’ academic capabilities. Studies are finding students of color who are paired with same race teachers do better academically because they have a more favorable perception of same race teachers. Favorable perceptions almost always translate into kids doing better in school.

Discipline is another important variable in minority student success. Kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school and actively engaged in their classroom. Studies are finding the unconscious bias of white teachers plays a significant role in the disproportionate punishment of black students compared to their white counterparts. The US Department of Education data found that a black K – 12 student is 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than a white student. In Louisiana, 60,000 students, many who were minority and low income, were suspended during the 2013-2014 school year, including 8,000 K – 3rd graders. Teachers of color help to counter these trends.

Is there really a teacher shortage? Yes, WE NEED MORE TEACHERS OF COLOR, especially in the STEM areas. What are we doing about this problem? At Xavier, our teacher preparation program is dedicated to making this world more just and humane through quality education by producing quality teachers of ALL colors, who care about and have compassion to nurture the intellect of their students, especially students of color. Currently, we are instituting programs we hope will inspire college students of color, who haven’t considered teaching as a career, to give that option a second look.

Through two grants, we are implementing two teacher residency programs, STEM Stars and the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency Program. Both are 1-year residencies that are a part of a 2-year degree program. Participants will receive intense training by pairing them with master teachers, considerably reducing the gap between practice and theory. In addition to receiving a master’s degree in the art of teaching and certification, participants will receive a monthly stipend for 12 months and employment in selected NOLA schools.

For more information on these programs, and other teacher preparation programs at Xavier, contact us at 504.520.7536 or email us at doec@xula.edu.

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