Educator Diversity

An effective educator workforce that advances educational equity is increasingly one that is also diverse.


A large body of research shows that effective teachers are the most important in-school factor that leads to positive student achievement.1 Additional research shows that students of color that have a teacher of color at least once are more likely to be referred to gifted programs and increase the likelihood for academic success.2 An increase in teacher diversity, specifically teachers of color, is linked to increases in academic performance and social and emotional/non-academic benefits as well as improvements in teacher recruitment and retention.3 By 2026, students of color will make up 54 percent of the public school student population in the United States and there will be a limited pool of teachers of color to teach them.4 The gap between the number of teachers of colors and students of color is a multifaceted challenge that is exacerbated by a sharp decline nationally in the number of individuals enrolling in teacher preparation programs (TPPs).

  • Enrollment in TPPs declined by 36 percent between 2009–10 and 2013–14—from approximately 725,000 candidates to just 464,000.5
  • The National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) estimates that annually there are more than 27,000 teacher candidates—approximately 8,600 who are candidates of color—nationally, who complete TPPs, but do not pass licensure tests, and therefore do not earn a license.6
  • Drivers of this decrease include but are not limited to: 1) the cost of entering the teaching profession, 2) outdated or misaligned teacher preparation curricula, 3) bias in certification exams (for example, more elementary teacher candidates fail their licensing tests on their first attempt (54 percent) than pass them, 4) lack of focus on/accountability for teacher diversity at the teacher preparation, district or school level, 5) unsupportive school environments and, 6) low salaries and limited opportunities for career growth.7 8

Education First works closely with districts, teacher preparation programs, states and foundations to help them identify opportunities to get and keep educators of color in schools. Included below are our Spotlight on Teacher Diversity blog series and projects we’ve worked on to support our clients with their educator diversity efforts.

It’s really important that students have people who reflect back to them their language, their culture, their ethnicity, their religion. It doesn’t mean all the people in their lives have to do that mirroring, but they should have some. And we know that in the teaching profession, there really are not enough mirrors.

— Sarah Leibel. Lecturer on Education and Master Teacher in Residence. Harvard Teacher Fellows Program


New York City Coalition for Teacher Preparation
Education First worked with the New York City Department of Education on the development of their teacher preparation partnership model that recruits high quality and diverse candidates. The vision for the partnership is to transform how the district, school sites, and teacher preparation programs partner; build a rigorous and coherent teacher preparation program for NYC teacher candidates, specifically in schools and communities of color, to disrupt systemic inequity; and increase the number of Black, Indigenous, and other teacher candidates of color. With our support, NYCDOE has accelerated its partnership efforts, moving from model codification to partner selection and launch in just a few short months.

Teacher Diversity and Effectiveness Landscape Scan and Policy Prioritization
Education First supported the Walton Family Foundation and Walton Education Coalition with deepening their understanding of the opportunities and challenges in advancing a focus on teacher diversity and effectiveness state policies. Our efforts included completing a landscape scan, policy prioritization analysis, state profiles, fiscal analysis and cross-state analysis developed through desk research and interviews with advocacy organizations, state and local education agencies, nonprofits and foundations. Our findings informed recommendations for state policies that funders should prioritize in their grantmaking efforts as well as actions policymakers and state education leaders can take to advance a focus on diverse teacher workforce.

Teacher Diversity Strategy Roadmap
Education First worked closely with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to develop a teacher diversity strategy roadmap to help district leaders determine the steps they would take to build on their progress with diversifying their teacher workforce. The roadmap included research-based district strategies to improve teacher diversity, analysis of CPS’ progress with implementing each strategy, sample success measures CPS can use to understand the impact of its efforts, recommended promising practices to implement and brief case studies detailing teacher diversity efforts in other districts.

Teacher Diversity Leadership Workgroup
Education First facilitated the Teacher Diversity Leadership Workgroup in partnership with Generation Next and Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MNEEP) to explore and develop collective strategies local districts and teacher preparation programs (TPP) could implement to address diversity challenges in the Twin Cities’ teacher pipeline. Over the course of the workgroup’s meetings, participants examined the root causes of the Twin Cities teacher diversity challenges in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and cultivated potential ways for districts and TPPs to work together on solutions to address those root causes.

MTSU Teacher Preparation Program Strategic Plan
Middle Tennessee State University, SCORE and Education First sought out to develop an innovative strategy for the MTSU College of Education to continue to improve and evolve the program to ensure graduates from the college receive excellent teacher preparation. MTSU offers one of Tennessee’s largest teacher preparation programs, preparing almost 10 percent of the state’s teacher prep completers annually. With the deep engagement and guidance of MTSU faculty, P12 partners and national experts, the plan was approved by the CoE leadership and the President. The strategy is informed by an equityXdesign research approach that surfaced the needs of P12, MTSU students, alums, and LEA partners. The plan includes five core strategies: placing P12 at the center of its program, creating a coherent learning experience, providing rigorous clinical experiences, preparing more diverse teacher candidates and continuously driving program improvement. Education First, SCORE and MTSU are now in the process of co-authoring a series of publications on the strategic planning process and the work ahead, with a focus on the efforts to increase the diversity of the program and support for students and faculty of color.

Forefront Human Capital Group Learning Agenda
Education First is supporting the learning agenda for the Forefront Human Capital group, a group of Chicago-based funders. In December of 2019 Education First facilitated a meeting where the group came together to discuss a potential learning agenda for 2020. Education First presented findings from interviews and a survey with members of the group. Through these conversations, the group identified four areas to learn more about—teacher pipeline, teacher diversity, teacher leadership, and teacher growth and practice. Education First is facilitating the learning agenda sessions, including a session on teacher diversity.

Rochester City-Wide Teacher Pipeline Strategy
The Farash Foundation partnered with Education First to conduct an analysis of Rochester’s teacher pipeline. We collected and analyzed teacher data from K12 and higher education institutions across the region as well as conducted desk research and dozens of stakeholder interviews. We presented findings and recommendations to Farash board members, local funders, leaders of TPPs, RCSD and charter schools who identified two priority areas: 1) formalizing and strengthening teacher preparation partnerships between K12 school systems and IHEs, and 2) improving the diversity of the teacher workforce in Rochester. We then facilitated a cross-sector group of stakeholders to design a Rochester City-Wide teacher pipeline strategy that focuses on teacher recruitment, clinical experience, new teacher excellence and teacher diversity. Education First also helped launch and facilitate work groups as well as an Advisory Group that provides guidance on the overall pipeline strategy, monitors progress and advises on policy change.

What’s next? Action steps to help you benefit from our expertise:

Work with us Gain insights Learn about our expertise