Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Iowa Struggles To Find Minority Teachers

Many states are struggling mightily to hire minority teachers who reflect the growing diversity of their public school students. 

In Iowa, the gap is particularly jarring. According to the state’s recently released “2013 Annual Condition of Education” report, in 2012-13 about 20.2 percent of the state’s students were minorities (about 9.3 percent were Hispanic).

Meanwhile, just 2.2 percent of Iowa teachers were minorities. Even more telling, even among beginning teachers that year, only 2.5 percent were minorities. (Iowa is defining minority as including black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.)

According to The Gazette, last year about 38 percent of students in the Iowa City Community School District were minorities, but just 2.35 percent of the licensed full- or part-time staff were. 

That isn’t surprising given the teacher pipeline. The Gazette reported that about 73 percent of students at the University of Iowa College of Education identify themselves as white. According to the paper, more than 90 percent of students in the colleges of education at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa are white. 

UI College of Education associate dean for teacher education Susan Lagos Lavenz told the newspaper that she hopes new planned initiatives such as admitting students to the college when they are still in high school instead of their sophomore year of college will help.

“We’re talking about recruitment, which means getting to students early, in their early high school years, in their middle school years, to think about being a teacher and aspiring to that,” she said. 

Last year, the Des Moines school district formed 3D Coalition along with Des Moines Area Community College and Drake University in an effort to recruit minorities to the teaching profession. Last year, Des Moines — the state’s largest district — had a minority student population of 53.4 percent, but a minority teacher population of 4.5 percent.

“As our city’s school district becomes more diverse, it can serve as an inspiration for students to see a minority teacher at the front of their classroom,” said Janet McMahill, dean of the Drake University School of Education in a press release.