Teacher pool remains predominantly white

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Stephanie Reid, in foreground, a veteran educator and content coach for St. Paul Public Schools, interacts with her classmates who are part of a graduate program offered by St. Mary’s University on culturally responsive teaching. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Could one pathway to closing the educational achievement gap between white kids and students of color be as simple as hiring more minority teachers?

On the same day that I reported on efforts of Minnesota educators to be more culturally responsive to the needs of their students, a new national report shows the people training to become teachers are still predominantly white.

According to the New York Times, the study by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education shows 82 percent of people who received their bachelor’s degrees in education over the past couple of years were white.

In Minnesota, the pool of future teachers is even whiter. An estimated 91 percent of students who completed teaching programs last year were white, according to data voluntarily reported by the teachers-in-training to the Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. In contrast, the state’s current makeup of K-12 students if about three-quarters white — and growing more diverse.

That unevenness can present a kind of disconnect in the classroom.

But Stephanie Reid, a student in the St. Mary’s graduate program for culturally responsive teaching, says not all teachers of color are successful educating kids of color. She notes that a minority teacher from a middle-class background might not be able to connect with a student of color growing up in poverty.

“What’s more important [than race] is if my experiences are congruent to the students’ experiences,” said Reid, who is African-American and works as a content coach for St. Paul Public Schools. “That’s not to say that a white person cannot teach kids of color, but there has to be an effort to learn about that culture to be successful.”