Recruiting Minority Teachers

Did you know that ever since the Vietnam War, the Pentagon has filed several amicus curiae briefs supporting affirmative action? As stated in one of their briefs: “For the United States military, a highly qualified and racially diverse officer corps is not a lofty ideal. It is a mission-critical national security interest.”

What does this have to do with my platform? Let’s think about what it means to recruit and retain high quality teachers — especially minority teachers.

First, competitive pay is essential because APS competes with 4 or more major school systems whose needs are like our own. It costs more to live in Arlington. Living elsewhere means commuting costs. We also need to control class size increases, caseloads for special education teachers and psychologist and to provide sustained professional development to develop capacity in all our staff.  And, we need a diverse instructional staff.

Diversity of instructional staff

Why don’t we have better minority representation? A growing body of evidence tells us that minority students have better learning outcomes, better attendance, less behavioral problems, and fewer suspensions when they can connect to a teacher who looks like them. The intent to hire more minority teachers is definitely a priority for APS. So, where are they?

The answer isn’t as simple as our compensation isn’t competitive enough, or minority college graduates don’t want to become teachers. Quite simply, there are not enough qualified college graduates to fill the need.

Consider the data* below.


Young teacher - ages 25-34, holds a BA and teaching k-12

Children – ages 5-17

This is what student diversity looked like in 2015 (very similar for today with the Latinx population growing more), and the distribution of diversity in the workforce.

Percentage Nationally

Percentage Nationally

White children 50%

Young White teachers 80%

Black students 13%

Young Black teachers 8%

Latinx students 24%

Young Latinx teachers 9%


Step one to becoming a teacher is to graduate high school.

2015 high school
graduation rates

95% Asian

94% White

89% Black

76% Latinx


It is apparent that already there are likely to be more white teachers than any other group.


Step two is to graduate with a BA from college.

2015 College Graduation Rates •
pool eligible to become a teacher

65% Asian

2.1% became teachers

40% White

4.4% became teachers

21% Black

1.8% became teachers

16% Latinx

1.5% became teachers


Unfortunately, the pathway for becoming a teacher is frustrated by step one and compounded by step two. Nationally, to secure the best outcomes for all children, but especially black and brown children, we need a commitment to provide the best quality education to bring up the numbers of those who would be eligible to teach.

Everybody has had some one teacher who made a difference in their life, who inspired them, who believed in them. For minority students, having a minority teacher can be a game-changer.

As the numbers tell us, these minority teachers are hard to find. Now think about having to compete for this pool against school divisions like ours who need them as much as we do.

These are some suggestions I’ve seen for finding potential minority teachers which we could implement here in Arlington. We already recruit in DC, but that may be too restrictive, as recruiters are only on campus for the job fairs. We could establish a long-term partnership called a Professional Development School (What is this?) with Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia or other local universities. In this partnership, we bring minority candidates in before they start education programs to experience our schools, have them assigned a master teacher, and let them participate in observations and/or classroom experiences.

Of course, once the prospective teachers start their teacher preparation classes, observations are a part of their curriculum. But what if they get an early warm welcome? Invite their professors, as well, to share best practices with our teachers, a mutually beneficial arrangement. It is too easy to feel isolated as a teacher in our schools. So, once they start their student teaching here, we can assign our minority teachers to clusters of schools to each other, so that they can be supported as well as be supportive of each other.

It is not a lofty ideal to want a more diverse instructional staff. It must be something we strive for.





*The data comes from 2015 American Community Survey, by Constance Lindsay, Erica Blom, and Alexandra Tilsley, “Diversifying the Classroom: Examining the Teacher Pipeline”, Urban Institute, October 5, 2017.


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