Governor's Summit Addresses Teacher Diversity Problem

Dec 24, 2019

Governor Roy Cooper has created a task force to address an ongoing concern in public schools across North Carolina -- a lack of diversity among the state’s teachers. 

Cooper appeared at an event at N.C. State University earlier this month and outlined the problem, and how he hopes to begin to address it.

Afterward, he summarized his speech.

"I think some of the answers are going to be pretty simple, and it’s going to be about implementation," Cooper said. "But a lot of it is about recruiting."

The crowd for the day-long summit was diverse. Former teacher and current North Carolina Board of Education member James Ford said he was impressed. 

Black and minority teachers stand after James Ford asked them to from the stage to create a visual of how diverse the crowd was.
Credit Cole del Charco / WUNC

"I don’t think I’ve been a part of any convening in North Carolina where we’ve had this many educators of color in the same space," Ford said.

Several researchers presented their work on diversity in education. 

It included work related to teacher diversity and racial achievement gaps, and evidence that having a teacher of the same race is important for students of color.

"A variety of studies show that having a same-race teacher for black students in particular is related to a host of short and long-term outcomes," said Constance Lindsay, an assistant professor in the school of education at UNC Chapel Hill.

Those outcomes inlcude things like conduct violations and graduation rates.

"So the question is now, what are we going to do about it?" Lindsay asked. "And also, what are the best ways we can intervene?"

The stakes are high, as administrators stated clearly that the lack of diversity among educators is a real problem.

"Our state is now majority minority," said Tom Tomberlin, the director of Educator Recruitment and Support at the Department of Public Instruction. "If those students don’t feel like education has a place for them or is welcoming for them, then our ability to educate them is going to be hampered."

Gov. Cooper shakes hands and greets teachers, policymakers and researchers at the summit.
Credit Cole del Charco / WUNC

Tomberlin spoke about the challenges of recruiting anyone into the profession, including teachers of color.

"Is it money? Is it prestige? Is it position in society? I don’t know, all those things seem to factor into it," Tomberlin said. "But if the profession is not attractive, then the recruitment efforts will be limited."

The Governor and others hope recruiting more people of color to teach will help them solve the educator shortage, too.

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