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Teacher Workforce:

Strategies for Increasing Educator Diversity

November 2018


What are effective strategies for increasing diversity in educator workforces?


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Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on strategies for increasing diversity in educator workforces.

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive, and other relevant references and resources may exist. References provided are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We do not include sources that are not freely available to the requestor.

Research References

Haddix, M. M. (2017). Diversifying teaching and teacher education: Beyond rhetoric and toward real change. Journal of Literacy Research, 49(1), 141–149.

From the ERIC abstract: “In this column, the author raises and explores questions about new teacher diversity initiatives and the call for more teachers of color. Such questions include, why is there now a heightened awareness and focus on the need for more teachers of color? How are these new initiatives different than those that came before? How has the context—politically, socially, and economically—shifted and evolved to warrant successful teacher diversity reform? Or has it? The author examines the historical conditions that influence the presence and lack thereof of teachers of color and the policy reforms that both support and undercut teacher diversity initiatives.”

Irizarry, J. G. (2007). “Home-growing” teachers of color: Lessons learned from a town-gown partnership. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(4), 87–102.

From the ERIC abstract: “Many institutions that prepare teachers profess a commitment to issues of diversity and educational equity in their mission and vision statements. However, despite the fact that the enrollment of students of color in institutions of higher education has increased by 48% over the last ten years, the racial/ethnic composition of teacher preparation programs has changed relatively little. Although teacher preparation programs have had a larger pool of students of color from which to recruit, they have not been successful in attracting more students of color into the profession through traditional preservice pathways. If diversifying the teaching force is a goal from which people of color as well as Whites benefit, then the active recruitment of people of color into the profession should be part of the work of teacher preparation programs and district-based teacher recruitment efforts. As such, colleges and schools of education need to develop new approaches aimed at improving the recruitment, retention, and preparation of teachers of color. This article explores the challenges associated with diversifying the teaching force through preservice teacher education programs and forwards ‘home-growing’—that is, recruiting individuals to work as educators in the communities in which they were raised and educated—as one strategy to do so. It highlights Project TEACH, a town-gown partnership between an institution of higher education and a local community, examining features of the program that were identified by participants as influential to their successful transition into the teaching profession.”

Lau, K. F., Dandy, E. B., & Hoffman, L. (2007). The pathways program: A model for increasing the number of teachers of color. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(3), 27–40.

From the ERIC abstract: “The Pathways to Teaching Careers Program was a national recruitment effort started in 1989 to bring teachers of color into the teaching profession. This effort was instrumental in forging the investment of some $50 million for a series of grants that included 26 programs in 66 colleges and universities, located in 43 cities in 26 states. The grant was targeted to produce, recruit and prepare more than 3,000 teachers, especially minorities, who would serve more than 100,000 students annually in urban and rural public school systems. Regional technical assistance for program direction in the southern states was provided by the Southern Education Foundation, that has a 125-year record for promoting equity and equality in education. A six-year study yielded a recruitment goal of 2,593 participants and documented an 81% retention rate. In this article, we examine the Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) Pathways to Teaching Program. First, we will describe basic features of the program itself, and provide data on its graduates. Then, we report results of a study investigating factors underlying its high rate of retention.”

Moyer-Packenham, P. S., Parker, J. L., Kitsantas, A., Bolyard, J. J., & Huie, F. (2009). Increasing the diversity of teachers in mathematics and science partnerships. Journal of Educational Research & Policy Studies, 9(2), 43–72.

From the ERIC abstract: “This study examines teacher diversity in a federally-funded mathematics and science partnership program. Each of the partnerships in the program provided preservice and/or inservice education for teachers in mathematics, science, or both. Researchers used qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the effect of strategies implemented by the partnerships to influence teacher diversity and the relationship of strategy implementation to changes in teacher diversity. There were no significant changes in teacher diversity for the program overall; however, there were significant changes in individual partnerships. Researchers identified categories of strategies for increasing teacher diversity among the partnerships and found that some partnerships employed numerous strategies in a comprehensive manner. While there were no significant relationships between strategies implemented and changes in teacher diversity, the findings suggest the potential for relationships to be revealed with further longitudinal study. Particularly useful among these findings is the identification of a typology of specific strategies known to influence changes in the diversity of mathematics and science teachers.”

Sakash, K., & Chou, V. (2007). Increasing the supply of Latino bilingual teachers for the Chicago Public Schools. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(4), 41–52.

From the ERIC abstract: “The prevailing situation in which students of color represent over one-third of school enrollments, yet teachers of color represent merely one-tenth of the nation’s teacher force, is an important yet rarely considered factor amidst the constant claims of teacher shortages. Urban and rural schools struggle with an inadequate supply of teachers, but shortages are more concentrated in selected fields such as bilingual education and special education. In urban school districts that are majority children and youth of color, students have great need for teachers who can be cultural intermediaries to navigate between school and home cultures. In this article, the authors describe their programmatic efforts to address the urgent shortage of certified Latino bilingual teachers for the Chicago Public Schools. They start by setting the Chicago context and introducing the ‘Pathways’ opportunity, portray their Project 29 Pathways program in some detail, and close by discussing outcomes and lessons learned.”

Skinner, E. A. (2010). Project “Nueva Generacion” and grow your own teachers: Transforming schools and teacher education from the inside out. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(3), 155–167

From the ERIC abstract: “The ongoing quest to more effectively connect teacher candidates with urban communities and schools drives the examination of the role of colleges of education within the school/community context. Given that most community-based teacher education programs originate on campus and then move into communities, it is not surprising that a disconnect persists between colleges of education, their students and the communities they strive to serve. In this article, the author will describe a nine-year old partnership between a teacher education program and a community-based organization that is a viable and complementary alternative to campus-based and community-based teacher education programs. The unique partnership between the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and the Bilingual Education Program at Chicago State University (CSU) essentially brought the university to the community at the community-based organization's request. The collaboration was initially funded as a federal Title VII grant. Since it began nine years ago, between 60 and 70 neighborhood residents, many of whom already worked in the community as teacher assistants, school volunteers, and community leaders, have had the opportunity to attend college and work toward a bachelor’s degree and teaching credentials. Founded on LSNA’s core belief that the members of their urban community can and should serve as resources in schools, Project ‘Nueva Generacion’ (New Generation) is the model for the Grow Your Own teachers initiative in Illinois. The Grow Your Own teachers initiative provides funds to consortia consisting of a community based organization, a college of education, and a school district to recruit and prepare community leaders to become teachers.”

Staudt, D., Risku, M., & Martinez, E. (2008). Science and Mathematics Alliance for Recruiting and Retaining Teachers (SMARRT): Addressing the teacher shortage in at-risk schools. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 33(4), 54–66.

From the ERIC abstract: “The Science and Mathematics Alliance for Recruiting and Retaining Teachers (SMARRT) is a collaborative partnership pursuing aggressive strategies to recruit high quality minority teachers to teach in high-need schools in urban school districts. This partnership is dedicated to recruiting, preparing, and retaining high quality teachers with strong academic content knowledge in science and/or mathematics and a wide repertoire of research-based teaching practices including ESL strategies. The SMARRT project is designed to allow urban school districts experiencing severe shortages in mathematics, science and ESL teachers to create a pipeline of highly qualified teachers by partnering with the university to recruit, prepare, and retain teachers in high need schools. Insights, concerns, and implications for teacher education related to the SMARRT project are addressed.”

Villagómez, A. A., Easton-Brooks, D., Gomez, K., Lubbes, T., & Johnson, K. (2016). Oregon Teacher Pathway: Responding to national trends. Equity & Excellence in Education, 49(1), 100–114. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “National population trends demonstrate a shift in the U.S. ethnic population, similar to changes in the ethnic landscape of U.S. public schools. However, the teaching landscape has not adjusted to align with student demographics. Research highlights the academic and social/emotional benefit for students of color who experience having a teacher of color during their education. Therefore, it is valuable to consider frameworks for increasing the number of teachers of color in the educational landscape. Although there are initiatives for supporting these efforts in urban communities, rural communities often are not seen as having much need in this area. The authors of this article present literature and findings on the impact and needs for diversifying teacher education, and then outline a self-study of the Oregon Teacher Pathway (OTP) as a framework that takes into consideration promising practices for recruiting and supporting preservice teachers of color in rural eastern Oregon and other rural and urban communities.”

Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. F. (2004). Diversifying the teacher workforce: A retrospective and prospective analysis. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 103(1), 70–104. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “In this chapter, we argue that increasing the racial/ethnic diversity of the teacher workforce should be a key component of any system that aims to supply schools with well-prepared teachers for all students. We first explain why we think attention and resources should be devoted to increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce. We then provide a brief account of minority teacher and student representation in U.S. public schools since 1950, followed by a discussion of the reasons why the percentage of minorities in the teacher workforce declined significantly during the 1970s and 1980s. Because, to date, efforts to diversify the U.S. teaching force have focused largely on strategies for attracting more people of color into teaching, we devote an entire section to recruitment-related policy initiatives and program strategies. Following this, we highlight important issues beyond recruitment: the changes needed in the structures of colleges and universities—especially predominantly White institutions—to retain people of color through graduation, completion of teacher education programs, and attainment of teacher certification; the curricular changes needed in teacher education programs to adequately prepare candidates of color to teach a diverse student population well; the concerns raised by the concentration of teachers of color in urban schools; and the existing barriers to retaining teachers of color, especially those at the beginning of their teaching careers. We then review the current situation to gauge the extent of the progress made during the past decade toward diversifying the teacher workforce. Finally, we discuss the challenges ahead.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Strategies for Diverse Teacher Recruitment
  • Diversifying the Teaching Profession
  • Teacher Diversity
  • Grow Your Own (GYO) programs
  • Minority teacher recruitment

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant, peer-reviewed research references. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched the What Works Clearinghouse.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order; (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, and so forth), study duration, and so forth; and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in the Southwest Region (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest at AIR. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-91990018C0002, administered by AIR. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.