Increasing the racial diversity of the teaching workforce is an urgent priority. Policymakers and educators are advocating for more people of color in teaching and leadership positions. We at the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) agree racial diversity is paramount for building a more equitable education system. The GTL Center, operated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), works with states and districts to examine and improve workforce diversity and equitable access to teachers using evidence-based talent management strategies. We ask the tough questions: Do students who need effective and diverse teachers the most have access to them? Does the workforce reflect the diversity of the school or district’s student population? Often, the answer is no. Students from low-income backgrounds and students

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Changing demographics in teaching

Teaching has not always been a white woman’s field. Before Brown v. Board of Education, 82,000 African American educators were responsible for the education of some 2 million African American learners.

Tillman’s (2004) review of Brown v. Board of Education clarified that the ruling inadvertently led to more than 38,000 African American educators in the 17 Southern and border states being terminated from their positions as a result of “integration.” There were also significant declines in candidates entering the profession — a 66% drop from 1975 to 1985.

With new requirements around certification and preparation program admission standards put into place in the 1980s, an additional 21,000 Black teachers were displaced. By 2001, African American teachers represented 6% of the public school teaching force, despite African American students representing 17% of the student population.


Bond, B., Quintero, E., Casey, L., & Di Carlo, M. (2015, September). The state of teacher diversity in American education. Albert Shanker Institute.

Bonner-Reed, J., George, D., Woodard, C., & Heard, J. (2020, October 8). Investing in adult learners: Recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators of color in a virtual world. [Webinar].

Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Learning Policy Institute.

D’Amico, D., Pawlewicz, R.J., Earley, P.M., & McGeehan, A.P. (2017). Where are all the Black teachers? Discrimination in the teacher labor market. Harvard Educational Review, 87(1), 26-49.

Goldhaber, D. & Hansen, M. (2010). Race, gender, and teacher testing: How informative a tool is teacher licensure testing? American Educational Research Journal, 47, 218-251.

Griffin, A. & Tackie, H. (2016). Through our eyes: Perspectives and reflections from Black teachers.

Grissom, J.A. & Redding, C. (2016). Discretion and disproportionality: Explaining the underrepresentation of high-achieving students of color in gifted programs. AERA Open.

King, J. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2018). We’re not doing enough to support teachers of color. The Hechinger

National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Characteristics of public school teachers.

National Center for Teacher Residencies. (2018, August 14). Who we are. What we do. Why we do it.

Petchauer, E. (2012). Teacher licensure exams and Black teacher candidates: Toward new theory and promising practice. Journal of Negro Education, 81, 252-267.

Scott-Clayton, J. & Li, J. (2016). Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation. Brookings Institution.

Taie, S. & Goldring, R. (2017). Characteristics of public elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States: Results from the 2015-16 National Teacher and Principal Survey First Look (NCES 2017-072). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.

Tillman, L.C. (2004). (Un) intended consequences? The impact of the Brown v. Board of Education decision on the employment status of Black educators. Education and Urban Society, 36(3), 280-303.

Villegas, A.M. & Davis, D.E. (2008). Preparing teachers of color to confront racial/ethnic disparities in educational outcomes. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D.J. Mclntyre, & K. Demers (Eds.), Handbook on research in teacher education (pp. 583-605). Routledge.

Villegas, A.M. & Irvine, J.J. (2010). Diversifying the teaching force: An examination of major arguments. Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Public Education, 42(3), 175-192.

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Director at Center on Great Teachers and Leaders | + posts

Lisa Lachlan-Haché ( is managing director, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research.

Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at American Institutes for Research (AIR) | + posts

Tammie Causey-Konaté ( is educational equity senior advisor & senior technical assistance consultant, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research.

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Technical Assistance Associate at Center on Great Teachers and Leaders | + posts

Lois Kimmel ( is educator shortages specialist & technical assistance consultant, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research.

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Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at Center on Great Teachers and Leaders | + posts

Etai Mizrav ( are senior technical assistance consultant at the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders.

Categories: Career pathways, Equity, Implementation, Mentoring & induction, System leadership

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