Lack of teacher diversity in Minnesota is a crisis that contributes to the achievement gap for our students of color.
Metropolitan State University hopes to be a part in solving the crisis. The purpose of its recently held Summer 2016 Conference for Current and Aspiring Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers was to help recruit and support more people of color into the teaching profession and to support the retention of those who already are in the profession.
This conference was the first of its kind in Minnesota, with more than 300 educators and current and aspiring teachers of color in attendance. The conference took place Aug. 10 – Aug. 12, at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, and was organized by the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota (www.tocaimn.com).
Keynote speakers were Abdul Wright, 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year. Wright, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at the Best Academy in Minneapolis, is the first Black male to win the honor, and also the first charter-school teacher so honored. Hayes is a history teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Conn. Minnesota Department of Education Asst. Commissioner Hue Nguyen gave welcome remarks at the opening general session.
Students of color represent 30 percent of the state’s school population but teachers of color represent only 4 percent of the 58,200 public school teachers in the state (approximately 900 are Asian, 600 are Black, 500 are Hispanic and 250 are Native-American). In Minneapolis and St. Paul, where 67 percent to 77 percent of students are of color, only 17 percent of teachers are of color. Each year approximately 4,500 individuals become licensed teachers in Minnesota, but less than 10 percent are of color.
The coalition proposes steps toward the goal of doubling the number of teachers of color and statewide (currently approximately 2,200), and ensuring that at least 20 percent of the teacher preparation pipeline are people of color by 2020.