Tennessee Department of Education Releases Report on Educator Diversity

Detailed data on teacher and administrator demographics available for every school district in the state
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 | 08:56am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen today released a new report to provide insight on the racial and ethnic makeup of Tennessee’s student body and educator workforce, as well as outline where the department and districts across the state go from here. Additionally, for the first time, the department is releasing detailed demographic information by district to increase awareness and prompt further conversations.

In recent years, Tennessee has focused on strengthening the educator pipeline with specific attention on increasing the diversity of the educator workforce. In accordance with state law, the department recommends that school boards and local school districts establish reasonable, incremental goals for recruitment, employment, and retention of teachers of color. To set these goals, awareness of the importance and amount of teacher diversity is the first step.

“Building a strong educator workforce that reflects the diverse backgrounds of our student body will benefit each and every one of Tennessee’s students,” Commissioner McQueen said. “The department is committed to increasing awareness and providing supports and resources for local leaders as we work toward our goal of providing all students access to highly effective educators and the chance to learn from teachers who have a variety of perspectives."

In 2017-18, 37 percent of Tennessee students were students of color, but teachers of color represented only 13 percent of the teacher population. This gap between students and teachers of color in Tennessee mirrors a national trend, as across the United States, students of color makeup 51 percent of the student body whereas teachers of color make up only 18
percent of the population. Additionally, since 2011–12, the overall percentage of teachers and administrators of color has remained fairly stable. In contrast, Tennessee’s students are increasingly racially and ethnically diverse.

In 2017-18, half of Tennessee’s 147 districts had at least 95 percent white teachers. Furthermore, 40 districts had no African
American teachers, and 50 districts had no Hispanic teachers. Only seven districts have more than 20 percent teachers of color, and all of these districts have greater than 50 percent students of color.

In recent years, more studies have shown that students benefit from having teachers from diverse backgrounds. Teachers of color serve as role models for students who share their racial and ethnic identity and raise expectations for learning through relationships with students and their families. Research has also shown that academically, teachers of color produce more favorable outcomes for students of similar backgrounds. Studies also suggest that white students who are exposed to diverse teachers are better prepared for life in a multi-cultural society.

To provide more awareness and transparency about Tennessee’s educator workforce, district-level teacher and administrator race and ethnicity data from 2016-17 is now available on the department’s Data Downloads page. This
data was pulled from the state’s TNCompass system, and it was optional for districts and educators to report.

In the 2018-19 school year, the department will also begin including educator race and ethnicity breakdowns within the school and district strategic planning tool to encourage more reflection on educator diversity when planning for improvements to human capital systems around recruitment and retention. Additionally, progress measures on recruitment and diversity are included in the State Board of Education’s Teacher Preparation Report Card and in the department’s annual reports on educator preparation.

Awareness and reflection should lead to innovative strategies for increasing teacher diversity through strategic recruitment and retention. The department has also provided funding to encourage innovative practices at the educator preparation provider (EPP) and district level. The Tennessee Innovation in Preparation Grants awarded four EPPs a total of $200,000 to design new strategies that will support the development of a diverse educator workforce, increase the pipeline of educators in high-demand licensure areas, and promote collaboration to improve educator preparation in literacy. Furthermore, the department’s Diversity Innovation Grants encourage innovative practices in districts around recruiting and retaining diverse, highly effective teachers who better reflect the student population of Tennessee’s public schools.

To view the full report, Teacher and Administrator Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Tennessee, visit the department’s website here. For more information on the report, please contact Laura Booker, executive director of research, at Laura.Booker@tn.gov. For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at Sara.Gast@tn.gov or (615) 532-6260.