Study shows as minorities become the majority, students need more role models

Many of us don’t need a study to prove that mentors, role models, and coaches can be motivators for our personal success. Our strongest role models are usually those who we can identify with, who come from similar backgrounds, and who we can compare our own journeys to.

Just over half of black, Latino, and Native American students finish high school. And the numbers don’t get better if they go on to higher education. 56 percent of black students and 64 percent of Latino students will go on to attend college, although only half of those will finish college.

Today, minority students make up more than 40 percent of the U.S public school population. Within the next 20 years, minorities will most likely outnumber white students. But who will be teaching these students? A new report shows only 17 percent of teachers in this country are minorities. In more than 40 percent of our public schools, there are no minority teachers.

This is a problem for minority students expected to thrive in their learning environments. According to the authors of a new report by Center for American Progress, “A recent review of empirical studies also shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they’re taught by teachers of color.”

Researchers also say increasing the number of minority teachers creates the real-life examples that minority students need to be successful. However, how can we expect to increase the number of minority teachers if we don’t raise college graduation rates for minorities first? Also, how do we raise the college graduation rates for minorities if they don’t have any role models to look up to which has been proven to improve their success rates?

Some ways the center recommends for closing the teacher-student diversity gap are:

  • Increasing federal oversight of and increased accountability for teacher preparation programs, ensuring minority teachers get the preparation and skills the need to be effective.
  • Strengthening federal financial aid programs for low-income students interested in education as a career path.
  • Reducing the cost of becoming a teacher.

If you are affiliated with a school that has a strong minority population with an underrepresented minority staff, how can you help students find role models with backgrounds similar to their own?



“Few Minority Teachers In Classrooms, Gap Attributed to Bias and Low Graduation Rates.” 11 November 2011. The Huffington Post. Accessed on 14 November 2011.

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