Monday, December 25, 2006

New Harvard Research on the Segregation of American Teachers

New Harvard Research on the Segregation of American Teachers

Click here to get Full report (PDF format, 440KB).

Cambridge, MA — December 21, 2006 — Data from a survey of over 1,000 teachers in K-12 public schools across the country show that our teaching force — like public school students — is largely segregated. Teachers of different races are teaching students of very different racial composition, adding an extra dimension to growing student racial segregation.

The Civil Rights Project’s research has consistently documented the growing segregation of American public school students. Understanding racial equity in schools requires that we understand who the teachers are, whether they are products of segregated schools, what kind of schools they work in, and how faculty racial patterns relate to student segregation. There is a great deal of discussion but little systematic national evidence on the racial experiences and attitudes of teachers. This unique national survey offers us a chance to explore those issues in this and forthcoming reports.

This report shows that in an increasingly segregated national system of schools, faculty segregation tends to add to — rather than counteract — the separation of students. We see that the white teachers, who continue to dominate the teaching profession, tend to grow up with little racial/ethnic diversity in their own education or experience. Not only did white teachers, on average, attend schools when they were elementary school students that were over 90% white, they are currently teaching in schools where almost 90% of their faculty colleagues are white and over 70% of students are white.

“America’s public schools and schools of education must work to create a diverse teaching force to serve a changing nation and assure that all schools seek integrated faculties to better prepare our students,” commented Gary Orfield, Director of the Civil Rights Project.

Additional findings include:

White teachers teach in schools with fewer poor and English Language Learner students. The typical black teacher teaches in a school were nearly three-fifths of students are from low-income families while the average white teacher has only 35% of low-income students.
Latino and Asian teachers are in schools that educate more than twice the share of English Language Learners than white teachers.
The South has the most diverse teaching force of any region in the country, along with the most integrated students. One-quarter of southern teachers are nonwhite, and 19% of southern teachers are African-American. Early concerns about the loss of African American teachers at the beginning of desegregation in the South no longer holds.
The West is the only region of the country with a sizeable percentage (11%) of Latino teachers. The majority of students in the West are nonwhite, with a large share of Latino students.
Nonwhite teachers and teachers that teach in schools with high percentages of minority and/or poor students are more likely to report that they are contemplating switching schools or careers.
The percentage of white teachers is lower in schools that did not make adequate yearly progress, a standard defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Schools with high concentrations of nonwhite and poor students tend to have less experience and qualified teachers despite NCLB’s emphasis that qualified teachers be equally distributed.
Nonwhite teachers are often teaching in schools that may be more difficult to teach in.
The findings make clear that there is a need for policies focused on diversifying the teaching force and ensuring that schools serving students of all backgrounds have a racially integrated, highly qualified faculty. Creating schools with integrated faculties will help prepare students for living and working in our racially diverse society, including giving our nation's future teachers early, important experiences with diversity.

About the Authors:

Erica Frankenberg, M.Ed., is a Research Assistant at The Civil Rights Project. She is a doctoral candidate in education policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where her research focuses on school desegregation. Recent publications include "The Impact of School Segregation on Residential Housing Patterns: Mobile, AL and Charlotte, NC," in School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back?. She is also co-author of a series of reports on desegregation trends. She is the co-editor of Lessons in Integration: Realizing the Promise of Racial Diversity in America’s Schools (with Gary Orfield, 2007 from University of Virginia Press).

Professor Gary Orfield is Professor of Education and Social Policy and Director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. He is an author or editor of many books and articles on school desegregation including, Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education, School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back?, Higher Education and the Color Line, and other civil rights issues. Professor Orfield’s complete biography is available online at:

Press Contacts:

Erica Frankenberg
Office: 617-496-4753

Professor Gary Orfield
Cell: (617) 359-2892
Office: (617) 496-6367
Email: (preferred)

Jennifer Blatz
Assistant to Gary Orfield

About the Civil Rights Project:
The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP), founded in 1996, is a leading organization
devoted to civil rights research and a leading resource for information on racial justice based at
the Harvard Graduate School of Education. CRP strives to improve the channels through which
research findings are translated and communicated to policymakers and the broader public by
publishing reports and books on critical civil rights issues. It has found eager collaborators
among researchers nationwide, and wide open doors among advocacy organizations, policymakers, and journalists. Focusing initially on education reform, it has convened dozens of national conferences and roundtables; commissioned over 400 new research and policy studies; produced major reports on desegregation, student diversity, school discipline, special education, dropouts, and Title I programs; and published ten books, with four more in the editing stage. Note: The Civil Rights Project will move to UCLA in mid-2007.

Copyright © 2002 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

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