Racial Diversity in the Teacher Pipeline: Evidence from Massachusetts
Authors: Melanie Rucinski & Joshua Goodman
Despite dramatic increases in the diversity of the U.S. school-age population, the pool of public school teachers has remained disproportionately White. In Massachusetts, close to 90% of teachers identify as White, compared to only 60% of the K-12 student body. The scarcity of teachers of color is particularly concerning in light of growing evidence that diverse students benefit strongly from relationships with teachers who share their racial identity. Melanie Rucinski and Joshua Goodman document the racial composition of the applicant pool at each step of the teacher licensure process to identify potential barriers to greater diversity.
Diversity is lost in the first formal step of the teacher pipeline: taking and passing the Massachusetts licensure exam. Among those who take the exam, 87% are White, compared to only 66% of students enrolled at 4-year colleges in Massachusetts. There is also a disparity in the pass rate for this test. While 92% of White teacher candidates eventually pass the exam, only 70%-75% of Black and Hispanic candidates do. In addition, Black and Hispanic candidates are less likely than White candidates to retake the exam if they fail it the first time.
Implications and Recommendations
Goodman and Rucinski’s results suggest a comprehensive approach to increasing diversity in the teaching force that involves continuing work to close achievement gaps in K-12 education, targeted recruitment of students of color into the teaching track, and additional support for teaching candidates in passing the licensure exam. Specifically in Massachusetts, those looking to diversify the teaching force should focus on the early stages of the teacher preparation pipeline.