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Racial-Ethnic Diversity in the Teaching Force

Over the past several decades, a shortage of elementary and secondary school teachers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups has presented an issue of national importance. Numerous scholars and commentators have called attention to the glaring mismatch between the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the nation’s student population and the lesser degree of diversity in the nation’s teaching force. However, understanding these issues has been hampered by a dearth of empirical investigation on trends in the demographic characteristics of the teaching force. Studies that use large-scale data are particularly scarce.

To ground the debate over minority teacher shortages, Professor Ingersoll has undertaken a series of studies using national data to examine and compare the supply, recruitment, employment, and retention of minority and nonminority teachers over the past several decades.

These data analyses documented that, while a lack of parity persists between the proportion of students and the proportion of teachers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in schools, several underrecognized trends have also occurred:

  • The U.S. teaching force has grown more racially diverse since the late 1980s. The number of minority teachers has more than doubled, outpacing growth in both the number of nonminority teachers and the number of minority students.

  • Minority teachers are not evenly employed across schools. They are overwhelmingly employed in public schools serving high-poverty, high-minority, and urban communities.

  • Minority teachers depart schools at higher rates than nonminority teachers. Given this disparity, the growth in the ranks of minority teachers is remarkable.

  • School working conditions matter for minority-teacher retention. The factors most strongly related to minority-teacher attrition are the working and organizational conditions in schools.

Beginning in 2011, Professor Ingersoll co-authored with Henry May and Greg Collins a series of reports, articles, and essays presenting these findings. These publications have been cited more than 1,000 times and downloaded more than 15,000 times from the University of Pennsylvania’s Scholarly Commons website. The results of this research have been featured in education reports from groups such as the Learning Policy Institute and the Albert Shanker Institute and have drawn wide media attention.


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