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The Segregation of American Teachers

Authors: Erica Frankenberg, Gary Orfield
Date Published: December 01, 2006

Data from a survey of over 1,000 teachers in K-12 public schools across the country show that our teaching force — like public school students — is largely segregated. Teachers of different races are teaching students of very different racial composition, adding an extra dimension to growing student racial segregation.
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This report shows that in an increasingly segregated national system of schools, faculty segregation tends to add to — rather than counteract — the separation of students.  We see that the white teachers, who continue to dominate the teaching profession, tend to grow up with little racial/ethnic diversity in their own education or experience. Not only did white teachers, on average, attend schools when they were elementary school students that were over 90% white, they are currently teaching in schools where almost 90% of their faculty colleagues are white and over 70% of students are white. 

“America’s public schools and schools of education must work to create a diverse teaching force to serve a changing nation and assure that all schools seek integrated faculties to better prepare our students,” commented Gary Orfield, Director of the Civil Rights Project.

Additional findings include:

  • White teachers teach in schools with fewer poor and English Language Learner students. The typical black teacher teaches in a school were nearly three-fifths of students are from low-income families while the average white teacher has only 35% of low-income students.
  • Latino and Asian teachers are in schools that educate more than twice the share of English Language Learners than white teachers.
  • The South has the most diverse teaching force of any region in the country, along with the most integrated students. One-quarter of southern teachers are nonwhite, and 19% of southern teachers are African-American. Early concerns about the loss of African American teachers at the beginning of desegregation in the South no longer holds.
  • The West is the only region of the country with a sizeable percentage (11%) of Latino teachers. The majority of students in the West are nonwhite, with a large share of Latino students.
  • Nonwhite teachers and teachers that teach in schools with high percentages of minority and/or poor students are more likely to report that they are contemplating switching schools or careers.
  • The percentage of white teachers is lower in schools that did not make adequate yearly progress, a standard defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.
  • Schools with high concentrations of nonwhite and poor students tend to have less experience and qualified teachers despite NCLB’s emphasis that qualified teachers be equally distributed.
  • Nonwhite teachers are often teaching in schools that may be more difficult to teach in.

The findings make clear that there is a need for policies focused on diversifying the teaching force and ensuring that schools serving students of all backgrounds have a racially integrated, highly qualified faculty. Creating schools with integrated faculties will help prepare students for living and working in our racially diverse society, including giving our nation's future teachers early, important experiences with diversity.


In compliance with the UC Open Access Policy, this report has been made available on eScholarship:

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