Can we have better — and more diverse — teachers?

Reformers want to “raise the bar” for new teachers and put more Latino and black teachers in the classroom. Can we have better and more diverse teachers? asks Matt Barnum on Chalkbeat. Certification rules and tests disproportionately screen out teachers of color, he writes.

In a new report, the Center for American Progress argues that schools can have it all:  “Rigorous recruitment and thoughtful selection processes can achieve increased diversity and selectivity simultaneously.”

CAP recommends “improving recruitment for teachers of color, increasing teacher pay, using multiple measures for evaluating prospective teachers, and researching better metrics for predicting teacher effectiveness,” writes Barnum.

However, “some educational economists have floated the idea of essentially eliminating certification requirements” and instead carefully assessing new teachers’ classroom performance.

Between 2011 and 2015, nearly half of all states have ratcheted up testing or GPA requirements for entering teacher training programs. The raise-the-bar message has become policy, and teachers of color are the most affected.

At the same time, the push to increase the diversity of the overwhelmingly white teaching force has grown more urgent in the wake of recent studies.

“There’s clear qualitative and quantitative research that points to the added value for students of color when taught by a teacher of color,” said Travis Bristol, a professor at Boston University.

Barnum profiles a fourth-grade teacher in Baltimore who received high ratings, but may lose her temporary credential if she can’t pass a required test.

Tamika Peters worked for years as a long-term substitute and aide, before earning a master’s degree in education and completing the Baltimore City Teacher Residency training. But she’s failed the math exam four times.

“The test includes algebra and geometry questions — high school math — that Peters says she doesn’t need to teach fourth grade,” writes Barnum. “A study looking at Praxis scores in North Carolina found that black students performed better with a black teacher who had failed the exam than with a white teacher who passed the test.”


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Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne was born in Chicago and named after her grandfather, Joe Jacobs, who’d been a police reporter for the Omaha Bee-News. At the age of eight, she and her best friend became the creators and co-editors-in-chief of "The Wednesday Report" for four years. After years as a San Jose Mercury News columnist, Joanne started an education blog in 2001 and wrote "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds." She freelances for online sites, newspapers, magazines, foundations and think tanks. In addition to blogging at, Joanne writes Community College Spotlight at
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