The Columbus Dispatch

A learning curve on diversity

94% of Ohio’s teachers are white. Could that change soon?

- Madeline Mitchell and Kelli Weir Cincinnati Enquirer and Canton Repository

Heading into her senior year of high school at Cincinnati Public Schools, Teri’ana Joyner says she can count on both hands how many Black teachers she’s seen around.

She’s only worked with three. Maybe that’s why it took the promise of a free ride to Miami University to convince her that teaching was a viable career choice. She says she wouldn’t have come to that decision on her own – no way.

“I didn’t see myself in my teachers, so I really didn’t want to be a teacher,” the 17-year-old says. “I didn’t want to be something I never saw.”

In reality, Teri’ana’s experience with three Black teachers is more than what many students in Ohio see during their

K-12 education.

About 1 in 3 Ohio public school districts have a 100% white teaching staff, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Ohio has far fewer minority teachers than minority students in its public schools. That matters because research has consistent­ly shown that teachers of color:

h Help students of the same race or ethnicity perform better academical­ly.

h Help white students understand the increasing­ly diverse cultural world around them.

h Help their peers stay in the profession longer.

The number of minority candidates pursuing teaching degrees in the state’s universiti­es has fallen in the past decade, despite multiple efforts to diversify over the past three years from the state and individual universiti­es. Experts aren’t hopeful the decline will reverse any time soon.

In the 2019-20 school year, state data

showed 16.8% of students in Ohio were Black, compared with 4.3% of Black educators in grades K-12.

The same was true for other minority groups: 6.4% of Ohio students were Hispanic, while 0.7% of Ohio teachers were Hispanic. And 2.7% of students identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, while 0.5% of teachers identified as such. “This is not a situation that’s going to be addressed quickly,” says Jason Lane, dean of Miami University’s College of Education, Health and Society. “We really got to start in middle school identifyin­g students who could be great teachers and encourage them to think about that. They’re eight years or more from being in the schools.”

Miami professors came to Teri’ana’s class in eighth grade, touting mentorship programs, summer workshops, and free tuition and room and board for students who joined their Miami Teach program and chose to pursue a degree in education.

Miami’s partnershi­p with College Hill’s Aiken High School – New Tech is geared specifically toward recruiting students of color to become teachers.

“I’ll try it,” Teri’ana says she thought at the time. Lucky for her, she grew to love the field and now daydreams of what her own classroom might look like someday.

Research shows students of color benefit academical­ly, socially and emotionall­y when they are taught by teachers of color. These benefits include: gains in test scores, higher likeliness of staying in school, increased intentions of going to college, higher likeliness to take college entrance exams, lower likeliness to be chronicall­y absent and lower likeliness to experience discipline incidents.

Many studies suggest that these effects persist over several years and have long-term benefits for students of color placed with race-matched educators in at least one grade level.

University of Cincinnati associate professor of education Emilie Camp says studies also suggest white students may benefit from being taught by educators of color.

“From a young age, the more diversity that students are exposed to and have experience with … the better insight they have into that diversity of the human experience,” Camp says.

“It develops empathy, we know, it develops stronger relationsh­ips across the board and a keener insight into how to solve big problems and how to work with diverse sets of people.

“I don’t know how else to put it. It just makes us better people, I think.”

Adding more teachers of color also can help other educators, studies show. Too often, teachers of color leave the field due to feelings of fatigue, isolation and frustratio­n when they are one of the few teachers of color on staff.

Teri’ana noticed this, too. She says most of the Black teachers she saw at school would only stay for about a year before leaving the district.

The solution, experts say, is to continue hiring more diverse educators.

But that’s easier said than done. Over the past decade, Ohio data shows fewer and fewer teachers of color entering school districts where student bodies continue to diversify.

Teacher pipeline is full of white students

The pipeline of students who want to become teachers is a lot more shallow than it used to be. And the number of students of color in the teacher pipeline has slowed to a trickle.

Figures from the state education and higher education department­s show that Ohio’s college and university teacher preparatio­n programs boasted a higher number of racially and ethnically diverse students a decade ago than they do now.

Ohio had the most students of color in its teacher preparatio­n programs around 2010, when 3,645 students of color were enrolled.

By 2018, which is the most recent data available from the state department­s, 1,189 students of color were enrolled.

A USA TODAY Network Ohio survey of Ohio’s 49 teacher education programs indicates that enrollment of students of color has not improved since then.

While some of the preparatio­n programs reported a higher number of Hispanic and multiracia­l students in 2020 compared with five years ago, a significant decline in the number of Black students in the programs eliminated any gains the colleges and universiti­es could have seen in their overall counts for students of color.

On average, students of color annually comprise roughly 10% of the teacher preparatio­n program enrollment, an analysis of the preparatio­n program responses shows.

Less than a quarter of them actually graduate from the programs, according to the analysis.

Why minority recruitmen­t has failed

Reporters interviewe­d education experts across Ohio to understand why fewer students of color are pursuing teaching.

Several themes emerged, most of which pertain to all teaching candidates regardless of race or ethnicity, but appear to impact the enrollment of students of color the most:

h The field of education is suffering from an image problem. “There’s a national narrative about the low respect of teaching as a profession,” Lane says. Research shows less than 50% of parents would encourage their kids to become teachers.

h Low starting salary doesn’t appeal to students who likely will be graduating with debt. The minimum starting salary for teachers in Ohio with bachelor’s degrees, by law, is $30,000.

h High requiremen­ts for Ohio teaching candidates make it difficult to get in the door. Ohio requires teacher preparatio­n programs to be nationally accredited, most of which have done so through the Council for the Accreditat­ion of Educator Preparatio­n. CAEP requires an incoming class, or cohort, to have an average GPA of 3.0, and score well on a college entrance exam, such as the ACT or SAT. Zaki Sharif, dean of the College of Education at Central State University, says the entrance exams can be barriers, particular­ly for students from urban high schools who often aren’t given as much time on test prep as suburban districts. Those students are also often unaware that they can retake the test to better their score or lack the money to retake the test. “There is no connection between a high ACT score and you being a good teacher,” he says.

h Cost of becoming a teacher. “One of the biggest obstacles for students coming into the profession is the cost of getting the degree and doing all of the work they have to do for student teaching and certification,” Lane says. “These are not inexpensiv­e exercises.” To exacerbate the problem, many students can’t work other jobs during the unpaid 12 weeks of student teaching.

Other common issues in retaining students of color in teacher training programs include lack of support throughout their college careers, lack of diverse role models in the profession and the lengthy time commitment of staying in school.

The few students of color who do make it through Ohio’s teacher training programs often leave the profession if they take jobs in underfunde­d schools, or experience burnout from being the only teacher of color in a school.

What’s the solution?

These challenges are not new, and scattered attempts over the years by colleges and universiti­es have produced little improvemen­t. But a push by state officials and national education associatio­ns to diversify the teaching profession has some experts hopeful.

A statewide task force assembled in 2018 by the Ohio department­s of education and higher education has recommende­d a range of actions for Ohio to better recruit and retain teachers of color, including mentorship programs, better promotion of the teaching profession, and providing loan forgivenes­s and scholarshi­ps.

This year, the state doled out grants to 20 different school districts to help them diversify their ranks over the next 2 1⁄2 years. Most of the grants will support what’s known as “grow your own” programs that recruit teacher candidates from nontraditi­onal areas, such as educationa­l aides and after-school staff.

Rochonda L. Nenonene, co-director of the Urban Teacher Academy at the University of Dayton who served on the statewide task force, believes it could take up to 10 years before the current efforts will make a noticeable impact.

Even then, she expects a “steady increase of candidates (of color), not a deluge.”

Looking for teachers in new places

So what are K-12 districts supposed to do in the meantime to diversify their teaching staffs?

Lane says districts should tap into their paraprofes­sionals, who often tend to come from diverse background­s.

“Those individual­s tend to be highly committed to our students and highly committed to the communitie­s where they are,” Lane says.

He suggests finding ways to fasttrack those individual­s into education programs to earn teaching certificates.

Cincinnati Public Schools’ Ross Turpeau, director of talent acquisitio­n and staffing, says the district started a program this year to identify paraprofes­sionals in their community who might want to pursue teaching degrees. The district is offering support and resources for those individual­s. Turpeau says there are 43 people in that program now.

Turpeau says the district has historical­ly relied on local universiti­es such as UC, Xavier and Miami to obtain their more than 200 student teachers each year, many of whom often end up teaching within Cincinnati Public Schools afterward.

But that’s about to change, he says. “We know that’s not getting us what we need,” Turpeau says.

CPS has roughly 36,000 students, making it the third-largest district in Ohio. Racial minorities make up roughly 3 of 4 CPS students, state data shows.

“We know we need to be more diverse. We know what our numbers look like as far as the students we serve. And we know the importance of making sure that we’re putting people in positions that look like our students, too,” Turpeau says.

To do that, the district is looking at partnershi­ps with Central State University, Ohio’s only historical­ly Black college or university (HBCU) with a teacher training program.

The problem is, Central State is too small to solve the statewide problem on its own. The university’s teacher training program had 28 graduates this past year, its largest graduating class in years.

Central State has begun an online teacher preparatio­n program that has grown its enrollment from 120 to more than 1,400 students. But it’s unclear whether it will help Ohio’s shortage of teachers of color, as roughly 85% of the students are from out-of-state and likely will remain there.

Turpeau says the district might have to look outside Ohio, too. They are exploring partnershi­ps with other HBCUS, like Spelman College in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington, D.C. Dawn Shinew, dean of the College of Education & Human Developmen­t at Bowling Green State University, believes districts and universiti­es also need to support the diverse teachers and students they do have.

“Recruiting more Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) students to our educator preparatio­n programs isn’t going to help if they haven’t had supportive, positive experience­s in K-12 to ensure they will be successful and ready for college,” Shinew says.

“Similarly, graduating more BIPOC teachers isn’t going to make a difference if school districts don’t hire and support these teachers so that they stay in the profession.”

Diversity brings an inspiring example

Teri’ana says she feels as though a weight is off her shoulders as she enters her senior year at Aiken. She doesn’t have to worry about college admissions or tuition dollars, like many of her classmates. Her plan has been set in stone since eighth grade.

But besides the scholarshi­ps and summer intensives provided through Miami Teach, Teri’ana says she’s most grateful for and inspired by Rachel Mcmillian, a Miami alumna who taught social studies at Aiken until the end of last school year. Mcmillian helped lead the Miami Teach program alongside Nathaniel Bryan, a Miami professor.

It was important to see someone who looked like her as a teacher before she knew she could do it herself, Teri’ana says.

Mcmillian gave her “motivation to know that I can do it, to know that I can become a great teacher and get my doctorate, you know?” Teri’ana says.

“I feel like seeing myself in the classroom actually helps me know that I can do something with my life.”

If all goes as planned, Teri’ana could be leading her own classroom by 2027.

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 ?? CINCINNATI ?? Teri’ana Joyner, 17, is photograph­ed on Aug. 9, at Aiken High School. Joyner has been a part of the Miami Teach recruitmen­t program since she was in eighth grade, and wants to pursue a career in education and help bring more diversity into the field of teaching.
CINCINNATI Teri’ana Joyner, 17, is photograph­ed on Aug. 9, at Aiken High School. Joyner has been a part of the Miami Teach recruitmen­t program since she was in eighth grade, and wants to pursue a career in education and help bring more diversity into the field of teaching.
 ??  ?? Shinew
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 ??  ?? Camp
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