With all of the emphasis on improving diversity in schools among students, perhaps there should be more resources given towards improving diversity among teachers.
A recent study from New York University reveals that all students — regardless of race — perceive minority teachers more favorably than white teachers. Sociologist Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng and his colleague Peter Halpin conducted the study.
"Minority teachers may be perceived more favorably by minority students because they can serve as role models and are particularly sensitive to the cultural needs of their students," Cherng said in a press release. "We were surprised to find that minority teachers are not just viewed more highly than white teachers by minority students, but in many cases by white students as well."
Cherng and Halpin analyzed surveys from a diverse group of 1,700 sixth- through ninth-grade teachers from more than 300 schools. The researchers also learned that most students gave higher ratings to teachers of races different than their own.
The researchers have a working theory as to why students generally prefer teachers of different races.
"If you're a black teacher, you understand you're not in the mainstream and you know how to navigate the world essentially embodying an identity that is sometimes highly stigmatized," said Cherng to The Huffington Post. "Kids are struggling with their own identities and how to come to terms with their own difference and development. I think these middle school teachers can use their own identities and experience to bridge that relationship with all types of students."
More than half of all schoolchildren are minorities. Despite more racial diversity among today's students, the education professional workforce hasn't caught up with them. A 2015 study found that less than 1 in 5 teachers are people of color.
Cherng says that the solution should be minority teacher recruitment and retention. By inspiring more minority students to seek careers in education, we can make sure that the next generation of teachers better reflects the growing diversity in today's schools.
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