Oregon Students and Teachers of Color: A Quick Overview

What do Oregon data tell us?

During the 2022-23 school year, 41% of Oregon K-12 students identified as students of color. However, we continue to see a very large gap between the percentage of teachers of color and students of color in our schools. For students of color, this equates to few teacher role models who reflect racial/cultural diversity.

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Despite several state funded initiatives designed to help close the gap between racially diverse student populations and teachers of the same race/ethnicity, Oregon’s proportion of teachers and students of color continues to increase at nearly identical rates.

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Why is this an important issue?

  • Currently we see disparities in performance of students across racial differences including graduation rates, test scores, disciplinary actions, attendance rates, and overall well-being. That means Oregon students’ race predicts how well they thrive in school.
  • Having interactions with teachers and administrators of color not only helps students of color but it helps all students see people of color in leadership roles.
  • For students whose families primarily speak a language other than English, they may have more difficulty connecting with schools to support their children’s academic success and relating to teachers who speak only English.

Why are there so few teachers of color?

Here’s an alarming statistic referenced in Oregon’s 2022 Educator Equity Report: “According to the Hechinger Report, between 1988 and 2018, the rate at which teachers of color were hired by the country’s schools increased, yet on average those teachers left their positions sooner than White teachers in similar positions.”

Root causes impacting retention for educators of color in today’s education institutions include school climate and culture conditions such as “environments steeped with racial inequity and racism on both institutional and interpersonal levels” as well as racial and ethnic isolation. Some teachers of color have reported revisiting racial trauma they experienced as students in our school system.

Although teacher retention is of concern in general, it’s particularly discouraging when individuals of color are recruited, earn a teaching license, start employment as a teacher and then leave the field due to working conditions which can range from the classes or schools they are placed in, preparation for the position they are assigned to teach, and the types of support provided, including administrative support.

Oregon regularly documents school districts serving more than 40% students of color and these districts are spread across the state. Thirty-eight districts whose K-12 student populations were 40% or more students of color and six serve over 70% students of color.

On the positive side, both our state’s ethnically and/or linguistically diverse Instructional Assistants and high school students represent two potential groups for recruiting more diverse educators.

To learn more…

  • If you want to look at specific data for your school or district, you can download the most recent At-A-Glance School or District profile at this link.
  • How many teachers of color did you have while going to school? Talk to students of color and ask them about their experiences in K-12?
  • You can learn more about Oregon’s efforts to diversify our educator workforce by downloading and reading the most current Oregon Educator Equity Report at this link.

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1Kohli, R. (2019). Lessons for teacher education: The role of critical professional development in teacher of color retention. Journal of Teacher Education, 70(1), 39-50. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0022487118767645

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