Closing the Educator-to-Student Diversity Gap

A teacher stands at the front of a classroom with a marker in hand, smiling.
Tress Blake teaches a fourth-grade class at Wayzata North Woods Elementary School.

As our nation grows more diverse each year, the PK-12 workforce has not been keeping pace. In today’s classrooms, too many students go through their entire education without a teacher or school leader who shares their racial, ethnic, or cultural identity. A comprehensive analysis of demographic data across all 50 states by TNTP revealed that in 97% of school districts nationally and in every state, the percentage of students of color exceeds the percentage of teachers of color.  

Compelling research underscores the profound work and far-reaching benefits of having racially and ethnically diverse educators in the classroom. Educators of color are more likely to engage students of color with high expectations, fostering an asset-based mindset and a sense of belonging. This leads to lower rates of student suspension, increased rates of referral to gifted programs, and higher rates of students of color earning postsecondary degrees.  

But this isn’t about some students—all students benefit from learning from teachers of color. It enhances their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as their sense of self-efficacy and empathy. Considering that the national workforce is projected to be more than 50 percent people of color by 2030, there is a pressing need for schools to prepare students for dynamic, multicultural environments.  

Increasing educator diversity is not only about creating more opportunities for students to see themselves in their teachers. It is also about being realistic about broader labor force demographic shifts and the inherent opportunity of our next-generation workforce. And that’s the true power of efforts to diversify the teaching workforce. By leveraging a talented pool of diverse future teachers, we can stay at the forefront of progress, change, and innovation for generations to come. 

The question then becomes: How can we attract and retain more diverse educators in our schools and classrooms? The answer lies in comprehensive policy and practice changes at every level.  

TNTP helped launch the One Million Teachers of Color (1MToC) Campaign, aiming to add 1 million teachers of color and 30,000 leaders of color to the education workforce by 2030. Last year, the campaign convened in D.C., emphasizing federal actions to address America’s educator diversity gap. The policy brief, Championing a Stronger, More Diverse Educator Workforce: A Congressional Call to Action, outlines evidence-based actions that Congress can take to support local and state efforts.  

Over the past two years, TNTP worked with 14 local education agencies (LEAs) through the Driving Toward Diversity Cohort, uncovering barriers and implementing changes to increase diverse applicants and improve hiring and retention rates. Through our partnership, LEAs set strategic priorities for diversifying their hiring, and created stakeholder engagement plans. We also provided technical assistance for change management as the LEAs worked to implement the plans.  

TNTP created the Black Educator Excellence Cohort (BEEC) to address the barriers that often keep educators of color out of the classroom, such as higher student loan debt, additional family responsibilities, or lack of access to generational wealth as a cushion for no-paying or low-paying positions as they are obtaining their credentials. The BEEC connects Black and African American Teaching Fellows with need-based scholarships, certification test prep, and networking and fellowship through a supportive community of new and established Black educators. Prior to the BEEC, about 40% of Black Teaching Fellows left during their first year of teaching. Since launch, 73% of BEEC members were still teaching after three years in the classroom. With nearly 700 new Black teachers entering classrooms with BEEC support since 2019, the impact for students and schools is significant.  

Affinity spaces, such as TNTP’s mentoring program, The Village, provide crucial support and connection for principals and superintendents of color. In addition to connecting these leaders to a powerful network of like-minded peers, the Village provides tools and resources for leaders to lead change, document their process, and tell a compelling story of their impact. With personalized support and coaching tailored to their individual goals, cohort members achieved meaningful outcomes for students in their schools and systems in just six months. A few examples include:  

  • At Haynie Elementary School in Morrow, GA, 80% of ESOL students exceeded anticipated growth metrics on the MAP assessment. 
  • Fifth grade students at six out of seven elementary schools in the Glades Region of School District Palm Beach County, FL, demonstrated double-digit proficiency gains on the state’s summative Science assessment.  
  • At the beginning of the school year, only 46% of 12th graders at Clewiston High School in Hendry County, FL, were on track to meet all graduation requirements by the end of the school year.  By the end of the 2022-23 school year, the school reached an 89% graduation rate for Black males, and an overall graduation rate of 88% for their students of color, rates that far exceed both the county’s and state’s overall graduation rates.  

In our first two cohorts alone, the Village engaged 31 educators, whose work impacted 476,000 students across 727 schools. Participation in the Village gave these talented leaders mentorship and support to transform the educational outcomes and experiences of students from marginalized groups. If we are to successfully build and sustain a pipeline of future educators of color across every level of the education system, we must be intentional about providing the support they need in their current roles.  

Focusing on hiring practices and addressing barriers to entry is just the beginning; the best recruitment strategy is a strong retention strategy. Too often, school systems invest in hiring teachers of color, only to lose them a few years later due to unaddressed obstacles. Retaining educators of color requires dedication to creating a culturally affirming workplace, and an ongoing commitment to confront racism and bias.  

As the nation continues to change and evolve, there is a renewed opportunity to prioritize educator diversity in your school or system’s hiring efforts. Start by examining your state’s diversity data and utilize TNTP’s Workforce Design Framework to guide your next steps.  

Ready to lead better and bolder work? Contact us—we’re here to help.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP