Story Which Colleges Are Helping Create a Diverse Teacher Workforce?
Not all teaching degree programs are equal when it comes to producing diverse teachers.
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The teaching workforce in the United States remains predominantly white, even as the student body grows increasingly diverse.

In an earlier look at teacher diversity, we examined where potential teachers of color fall out of the teaching pipeline and found that the number of teachers of color is constrained by the limited number of diverse college graduates. But at the same time, we found that even among those who do complete college, black, Hispanic, and Asian graduates earned teaching degrees at lower rates than white graduates. So which colleges are helping to close the teacher diversity gap, and which are only making it wider?

Although there has been an increasing focus on alternative routes to teaching—and new data show a significant proportion of teachers of color take those routes—traditional education programs are still the largest source of teachers. Yet, not all teacher prep programs are equal when it comes to producing diverse teachers. Though some make significant contributions to diversifying the teaching force, other programs are less diverse than the colleges that house them.

We examined which programs are contributing to a representative teacher workforce by comparing the share of students of a given race in the college’s teaching degree programs to the share of students of that race in the university as a whole. The chart below shows the difference between those two numbers for each race. For example, a college with a student body that is 10 percent black and teaching programs that are 10 percent black would fall on the 0 percent line. 


A majority of programs have a disproportionately large share of white students, relative to their universities, and a disproportionately small share of black students. This means that even when students of color make it through the first stage in the teacher pipeline—graduating high school and enrolling in college—at most universities they are less likely than their white counterparts to make it to the next stage: enrolling in a teaching-degree program.

This measure is relative. Colleges with a highly diverse student body might produce more teachers of color even if the education majors are less diverse than the institution as a whole. For example, a university with 1,000 students, 10 percent of whom are black, but with education majors that are 20 percent black will have 200 black education majors but will appear as a positive contributor by our metric. A similar-sized university with a student body that is 90 percent black but an education major that is only 80 percent black will fall below 0 in our measure, but will ultimately produce more—800—black education majors than the first university.

If you’re interested in the sheer volume of diverse students in teacher prep programs, you might be more interested in colleges that have a highly diverse student body, even if the teaching program is less diverse than the university as a whole. The scatterplots that follow show each race’s share of the student body and of the education program.


The patterns we see in enrollment become more pronounced when looking at completions. Even when colleges are enrolling black students in teaching programs, they’re, for the most part, having a harder time graduating them. 


Of course, there are different reasons students might not graduate with teaching degrees. Some might pursue a different major or transfer to a different school. But the fact that attrition patterns vary by race suggests there is more universities and programs could do.

For Hispanic students, the story is different. Looking at enrollment, Hispanic students are, by and large, represented in teaching programs to the same degree they are represented in their institutions as a whole. For completions, there is a slight drop, but not much. 

Many of the institutions that are doing well at both enrolling and graduating potential teachers of color are minority-serving institutions. These colleges also produce an outsized share of teachers of color. 

How do other colleges compare? See for yourself below. In this chart, you can select the race and ethnicity you’re interested in and look at all institutions or simply at one sector. You can even search for a particular institution.   


Learning more about differences in completions across different teacher prep programs can help us understand what’s happening at the beginning of the pipeline and why teachers of color remain underrepresented in the workforce. Policymakers looking to diversify the teaching pool might consider working with local universities and colleges to attract and graduate a more diverse group of candidates. Obtaining a more representative teacher workforce is a challenge the field has begun to embrace; teacher preparation programs can be an important tool in achieving this goal.


Project credits

This feature was funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine our research findings or the insights and recommendations of our experts. More information on our funding principles is available here. Read our terms of service here.

Research: Constance Lindsay and Victoria Lee
Design: Christina Baird
Development: Alice Feng
Editorial: Elizabeth Forney and Alexandra Tilsley
Illustration: John Wehmann

To read the methodology, click here.

Copyright © July 2018. Urban Institute.


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Research Areas Education