To the Editor:
Diversity among faculty and administrators has moved beyond the notion of importance to that of necessity as more students in American schools and universities are more diverse while the teaching workforce has failed to keep pace. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2009), 56.5 percent of P-12 students are white while students of color make up almost 44 percent of the population. Of six million teachers employed in preschool through 12th grade schools, approximately 80 percent are white and 40 percent of public schools report not a single teacher of color. If we understate the fact that a diverse faculty brings a multiplicity of experiences to an ever-growing diverse student body, and racial and ethnic diversity is essential to a pluralistic civic society, then we are shortchanging students in our mission to educate them. Racial diversity is an essential characteristic to a new American legacy-- one undeniably intertwined with the new cultural and demographic realities.
But to ignore the systemic contexts for faculty racial underrepresentation is to also limit the scope of the debate at Andover and nationally. Some of these contexts include structural and institutional barriers in hiring, lack of mentorship and sufficient professional development opportunities, issues of retention, promotion policies, and negative socialization and community integration experiences. We must also move beyond conflating a focus on diversity in hiring with the perceived under-qualifications of people of color. Rather, we need to focus on critically examining and redressing institutionalized and systemic legacies of exclusion in educational practices and the continued persistence of microaggression, which act as barriers to the success of non-majoritized community members. Collectively, these barriers and challenges negatively impact the aspiration, recruitment, retention, and long-term effectiveness of teachers of color.
A PA outreach program founded in 1990, IRT seeks to address the national lack of diversity in the teaching faculties in schools and universities. To date, over 1,400 students have participated in the program and pursued careers in education. However, this in itself does not, nor cannot narrate the entire story. The story is really embedded in those who have gone out and impacted others. It is somewhere between those spaces of influences and changes that we can make systemic impact in the educational landscape. The IRT, with support from the head of school and trustees, has carved out a niche, but is understandably incapable of settling the entire score. The pace of progress will always be slow because the depth of the problem is immeasurable. But the need for racial diversity among teaching and administrative faculties is unquestionable.
Asabe W. Poloma
Interim Executive Director and Director of the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT)
In response to: Deemphisizing Diversity
In response to: Adult Diversity Required