The Black Teacher Shortage: A Literature Review of Historical and Contemporary Trends

Article excerpt

Desegregation marked the beginning of a long period of loss of Black teachers within the profession. First, Black teachers were not hired in desegregated schools, and then as other professional opportunities opened up in society, fewer Blacks entered the teacher pipeline. The purpose of this literature review is to synthesize research relevant to understanding factors influencing the current number of Black teachers in the workforce and how to increase this number using alternative certification routes. Nontraditional programs that have been successful in recruiting and retaining Black teachers are highlighted.

Keywords: Black teachers, teacher pipeline, alternative certification

Minority student populations are growing exponentially, especially in urban districts. In 1972, 22% of students were classified as racial or ethnic minorities (Planty et al., 2007). By the 20032004 school year, that percentage had almost doubled to 41% of students being identified as minority students (Hoffman & Sable, 2006; KewalRamani et al., 2007). In large, urban districts, Black and Latino students, account for at least 65% of the student population (KewalRamani et al., 2007; Kozol, 2005). In stark contrast to the diverse group of students, the teaching workforce has remained largely White and female. There are nearly 3.5 million public school teachers in the U.S. (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, AACTE, 2010), but only about 17% of the teaching workforce is comprised of underrepresented minorities (NCES, 2010).

One focus for the diversification of the teaching workforce has been the disparity between the number of Black students and Black teachers. Black students comprise about 16% of our public school students, but Black teachers only represent roughly 8% of the teaching workforce (NCES, 2010). Therefore, it is problematic that the teaching workforce does not match our student population, especially in larger, urban school districts. This disparity does not allow Black students to see themselves reflected in the professional realm. Black teachers should serve as role models for Black students and; although, ¿1 students benefit from having Black teachers (Irvine, 1988), it is especially important for Black students to have these role models (Alston, 1988; King, 1993; Perkins, 1989; Villegas & Irvine, 2010; Villegas & Lucas, 2004). Many Black teachers will have cultural experiences and linguistic backgrounds similar to Black students (Ladson-Billings, 2000; Sheets, 2004; Villegas & Lucas, 2004), allowing the students to have familiar interactions with their teachers (Foster, 1997). Additionally, Black teachers serve as inspirational models for students to pursue higher education (Perkins, 1989; Siddle Walker, 2000), and provide awareness to non-Black faculty and administrators about the diversity within subgroups of Black students and how to effectively work with their parents (Rong & Preissle, 1997). This is not to assume that all Black teachers will have this effect or that White teachers are not effective and may serve as positive role models for Black students (Achinstein, Ogawa, Sexton, & Freitas, 2010).

Although many efforts to recruit minority teachers began with federal court orders to diversify district staffs in the 1970s and 1980s, some districts chose to voluntarily diversify staffs in response to increased student diversity (Haberman, 1999; Jan, 2006; Morris, 2001). Over the past twenty years, recruitment efforts in many large, urban districts have focused on hiring more minority teachers (Bodfield, 2009; Haberman, 1999; Jan, 2006). Many of these efforts include the recruitment of minorities through alternative certification programs (Chin & Young, 2007). Despite varied efforts to recruit and retain minority teachers, the teaching workforce remains virtually unchanged. Although there is a great need to diversify the workforce (Little & Bartlett, 2010; Villegas & Irvine, 2010), unfortunately there is speculation that in the near future the diversity ofthe workforce may not change in dramatic ways (AACTE, 201 0). …