Why Teachers of Color Matter for Students of Color to Succeed
Research shows that having a teacher of color can help students of color reach better outcomes; but the benefits extend to all young people, preparing them to live and work in an increasingly diverse society.
When it comes to improving outcomes for students—especially Black students—teachers of color make a powerful difference. But according to a 2014 study, not only are they underrepresented in the workforce, they also leave the profession at a higher rate than their White peers, citing isolation and a lack of support as primary reasons for leaving.
How are they effective? Teachers of color force classrooms to break down negative stereotypes, help students understand—and confront—racism, and prepare students to live in a multicultural society, studies from 2010, 2016, and 2018 show.
And for many students of color, a teacher's impact can be life-changing. A 2018 study found that Black students who had a single Black teacher were 13% more likely to enroll in college. With two Black teachers, that number jumped to 32%. For Black boys, the impact is even more powerful. Having a Black teacher cut high school dropout rates by 39% for Black boys from low-income families, the study found.
It’s not just because they’re seeing a role model who looks like them—though the research says that does matter. Compared to their White counterparts, Black teachers have higher expectations for Black students. They’re also less likely to perceive Black students as disruptive, inattentive, or unable to do homework, research shows.
So there’s a gap in representation—and it’s holding all of our students back.
The demographic data reveals the scope of the problem: Although nearly 80% of U.S. teachers are White, a majority of students are children of color.
We must do the hard work of addressing the diversity problem in our teaching workforce. Students need to see their own cultures reflected in the adults responsible for their learning.