The Phoenix Flyer

FL’s teaching force doesn’t match the diversity of its students

By: - July 8, 2019 2:54 pm
Teacher in her classroom

Teacher in her classroom. Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

Florida’s public schools are a melting pot, with students of myriad races learning in classrooms.

But the state’s teaching force doesn’t match that diversity.

Across the state, nearly 70 percent of public school teachers are white, yet only 37 percent of students in classrooms are white, according to a Phoenix analysis of 2018-19 data from the Florida Department of Education.

The Phoenix compared the race of teachers in elementary through high schools to the enrollment of students by race across schools.

For example, black students statewide made up 22 percent of enrollment in public schools last school year, while black teachers made up 14 percent of the teaching staff.

Hispanic students made up 34 percent of student enrollment, but Hispanic teachers made up about 16 percent of the teaching force.

Why is this an issue?

A body of research indicates that students can benefit when they are of the same race as their teacher, including a reduction in minority kids who are suspended or expelled. Other studies show, for example, that a greater number of black teachers connect to higher percentages of black kids in gifted programs.

Those and other studies and reports are from a collection of research from the Journalist’s Resource, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative.

The Phoenix found that all 67 school districts had gaps between the race of students compared to the race of their teachers, with some districts showing very wide gaps.

For example, in Collier County, 80 percent of teachers are white, but only 33 percent of student are white, based on the 2018-19 data. In Manatee County, 87 percent of teachers are white, compared to 46 percent of students who are white.





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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.