Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Oregon Sets Ambitious Goals For Hiring Diverse Educator Workforce

Oregon public schools are struggling to meet teacher diversity hiring goals set by the state Legislature. The state had set the goal of increasing the number of minority teachers by 10 percent between 2012 and 2015. But they are currently not on track to achieve that goal.

In fact, teacher diversity has stagnated even as the student population’s diversity has grown. A new report by the Oregon Education Investment Board, “The 2014 Oregon Minority Teacher Act Status Report,” tracks progress toward the state’s diversity goals.

According to the report, the state has only added a net total of 10 minority teachers over the past two years — bringing the total to 2,401.

The state began setting such goals when the Minority Teacher Act was first passed in 1991. But the report notes that the diversity gap has actually widened over time. While minority students now make up more than a third of the public school population, only about 8.3 percent of teachers are minorities.

The disparity is particularly jarring for Latinos, who are the largest minority student group at 21.5 percent of the population — but only make up about 3.6 percent of teachers.

The report lists a number of points in support of adding more teachers of color, including that they can serve as role models to all students and discourage stereotypes that white students might have. Additionally, a diverse teacher workforce may have a better understanding of minority student needs.

The report emphasizes that increasing teacher diversity can play a role in closing academic achievement gaps for minority students. The report referred to studies that found Latino and black students performed higher in testing when taught by a teacher of the same background.

The report also addresses significant hurdles toward reaching the state’s educator diversity goals. Fewer than 10 percent of minority college students major in education, and tend to pursue studies in other areas such as business, according to the report. Low pay and challenging teacher certification requirements may be discouraging factors.

The report also notes that school districts may need diverse staffs in order to better recruit and hire minority teachers.

The state appointed the Oregon Educator Equity Advisory Group to focus on addressing the recruitment and retention of diverse educators.