Virginia task force addresses lack of teacher diversity

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia has a teacher shortage. Not only that, the pool of candidates is getting less diverse.

“There is value in all students learning from teachers with diverse backgrounds,” said Dr. Bernice Cobbs, principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount.

Cobbs is one of about two dozens members of a task force charged with coming up with recommendations to address teacher diversity in the commonwealth.

Last year, 49 percent of students in Virginia’s public schools identified as minorities, according to the Virginia Department of Education. That’s compared to just 20 percent of teachers.

“The teacher pipeline is becoming less diverse,” said Cobbs.

On Tuesday, the group presented its ideas to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“Our teacher population should reflect our student body,” said McAuliffe. “That’s plain and clear, just as it is in society.”

The task force came up with a total of 16 recommendations to tackle four barriers.

The barriers to a diverse teaching workforce were identified as:
1. The length and cost of the traditional teacher preparation pathway is disproportionate to salary, which is particularly burdensome for first generation college students and low income students who are often minorities.
2. Students are not exposed to or made aware of pathways into the profession early enough, nor are non-teaching majors aware of potential pathways into the profession.
3. The provisional licensing route is underutilized, and teachers of color who are provisionally licensed in Virginia obtain full licensure at lower rates than their peers.
4. Teaching suffers from declining respect and interest in the profession.

The task force came up with a list of priority recommendations. It included:
-Allowing undergraduate education-based majors in teaching and education
-Developing a model “Grow your own” program for deployment to local school divisions
-Annually convening teachers and teacher candidates of color
-Implementing a model teacher induction and mentorship program
-Covering/subsidizing the cost of tests and test prep programs for minority and low-income teacher candidates

Travis Holder is licensure manager for Fairfax County Public Schools. He and Cobb presented the suggestions to the governor on behalf of the rest of the task force.

“I think it was received pretty well,” he said. “I’m hopeful that our recommendations will be put into action and we can see some changes over the course of the next couple years.”

To learn more about the task force, click HERE.