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EDITORIAL: Increase teacher diversity

EDITORIAL: Increase teacher diversity

Students get a more rounded education when taught by a diverse group of teachers

There’s much more to our children’s education than the traditional subjects taught in the classroom.

Much of the education our children receive, a lot of what they take with them into adulthood, doesn’t come from the actual lessons at all.

It comes from what they see and experience beyond classroom learning. 

It comes from being taught by those who are like them, who inspire them, the role models they have growing up. 

It comes from learning different points of view and experiencing different approaches and being exposed to different cultures.

But they won’t get those experiences and inspirations if most, if not all, of their teachers are white.

Even as the local population of students has become more diverse, many school districts in our region have done very little over the years to increase diversity in the people teaching these students.

It’s an issue that must be addressed with urgency if students are to get the full benefit of a public education.

The failure of many local school districts to diversity their teaching populations was spotlighted in this Sunday’s Gazette by staff writer Zachary Matson.

Among the districts that have stood out for their lack of diversity over the years are Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Scotia-Glenville, Ballston Spa, Saratoga Springs, Niskayuna, Amsterdam, Shenendehowa, Guilderland, North Colonie and South Colonie.

The Schenectady school district, admirably, is one district that has made a concerted effort to hire more teachers of color and has been successful — a demonstration to other districts that greater diversification is achievable.

One can put a lot of the blame on district administrators for not making a strong enough effort to diversify their staffs. They are, after all,  the ones who recruit new teachers and make the final hiring decisions.

But as our report points out, there are legitimate obstacles in their way, including a lack of diversity among the pool of teaching applicants.

The responsibility for diversifying that pool falls on the state Education Department, the state university system and the profession itself, which must do more to encourage people of color to enter teaching, through better promotion and incentives.

Parents and other taxpayers also need to play a greater role, by holding local district officials and the education system accountable for the changes that need to be made.

All children, regardless of race or ethnic background, benefit greatly from a diverse teaching population.

We can do better to ensure they receive those benefits.

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