Diversifying the Educator Pipeline to Improve Education for Every Student

By E. Wyatt Gordon

Since the Great Recession in 2008, the U.S. educator pipeline has steadily declined by one-third as young adults decide to pursue professions outside of education. This steadfast contraction is concerning on its own, however, sustained teacher turnover rates compound pipeline issues for states, schools and students. Nearly half a million teachers leave the workforce every year. Our ability to replace them with quality educators continues to be a serious challenge and a growing concern across the country.

While educator pipeline and teacher quality issues dominate education workforce discussions, educator diversity is a pervasive and systemic problem that must be addressed. Student populations across America are becoming increasingly more diverse, yet our educator workforce is not. Black male educators, in particular, are underrepresented in the education workforce and in classrooms that serve increasing numbers of diverse students. In fact, Black males represent only 2% of the entire teacher workforce today.

We know that Black male educators leverage their situated knowledge and experience as assets for all students. Black male teachers serve as relatable role models for diverse students; raise the bar by setting higher expectations for students of diverse backgrounds; and are more likely to commit to careers in our most under-resourced schools (where teachers are desperately needed). Critically, we also know that diverse teachers — including Black male educators — positively impact the educational achievement of racially diverse students and strengthen teacher quality.

Wyatt and his social studies class in 2008. Courtesy of Washington American School – San Jose, Costa Rica

In an effort to highlight these important issues and to provide a space for conversations across the country about the pressing need for Black male educators, ETS, along with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, The National Urban League, The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania Consortium of Educators with the Black Male Teachers Initiative, are collaborating to host a three-part series focused on recruiting, developing and retaining Black male teachers. The webinar series will offer insights into the actions necessary by school districts and institutions to make progress to improve inclusion and ensure a more diverse educator workforce.

As food for thought — in 1950 nearly half of all Black professionals in the United States were teachers. Since the Brown decision this number has continued to fall drastically. The history of Black professional participation in the education workforce provides a possibility of what could be if we are serious about our commitment to quality education through recruiting, retaining and supporting diverse voices in the classroom — because, as the data makes clear, diverse educators elevate the performance of all students in classrooms across our country.

The first part of the “Building the Black Male Educators’ Pipeline Through Effective Recruitment” series will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 26, from 1–3 p.m. ET. For more information and to register, visit here.

Wyatt Gordon is the Executive Director of Professional Educator Programs in the Student and Teacher Assessment division at ETS.