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Why having a diverse teaching corps matters

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- When it comes to diversifying America's teaching corps to better reflect the increasing number of Hispanic students, there's a big question: If Latino public school students rarely see a Hispanic teacher, how will they ever come to see teaching as an attractive profession?

It's not a trivial concern.

While there's no specific research data showing that Hispanic students receive an outsized benefit from having teachers with the same background, there are studies that confirm a positive link between teachers of color and the academic achievement of all students.

And a recent study found that low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and consider attending college.

But while the benefits to an increasingly diverse student body are easily imaginable, one aspect about recruiting more teachers of color is rarely spoken about: How challenging it is to actually be a Hispanic teacher in a teaching corps that is overwhelmingly white (only 8 percent of all teachers are Hispanic).

For starters, becoming a teacher is expensive.

Not only do you need to earn at least a bachelor's degree but, depending on your state, there are a battery of general and content-area tests to take, each of them costing a nice chunk of change. The capstone test -- called the edTPA and now the standard for certification in 16 states and growing -- requires a high quality video-taking device, video editing skills and super fast internet access to create and upload an extensive submission.

This is in addition to 15 to 20 weeks of unpaid mandatory student teaching during which you'd have to be crazy to try to work elsewhere -- if your university even allowed it -- regardless of how dearly you needed the income.

And, as if that weren't enough of a mountain to climb, for those altruistic souls devoted to teaching in low-income schools where the majority of students are black or Hispanic and the pay is likely to be low, the Trump administration is threatening to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which helps teachers who take on these extra difficult teaching assignments.

Then there is the actual experience of being a teacher in a school where there are few or no other teachers of color -- it's not always a walk in the park.

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