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There is a lack of teacher diversity in our schools. Students benefit more from having teachers of color. A diverse teaching staff would provide students with multiple perspectives allowing them to gain a greater understanding of the world around them.

Teachers nationwide don’t reflect the diverse student populations they serve. Students of color outnumber white students in public schools, yet 84 percent of all public school teachers identify as white. States haven’t been doing enough to increase the diversity of their ranks.

There needs to be an emphasis on hiring diverse teachers. All students deserve to be taught by excellent teachers, and they deserve to be taught both by teachers who look like them and teachers who do not. Communities must demand that classroom teachers reflect the communities they serve.

Undergraduate and graduate programs should dedicate more resources to recruiting individuals with great potential to succeed as teachers. It is essential to make opportunities and pathways into this profession more available to all individuals who have the determination and desire to become the excellent teachers our students deserve.

However, the tremendous upfront cost of earning a teaching license proves to be too much of a barrier for many people. The most successful approach has been providing students of color with supports and financial incentives. States should do more to fund teacher preparation programs.

Every student has a basic right to a great public school with a highly-qualified and caring teaching staff. Increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is connected directly to closing the achievement gap. Unfortunately, programs and initiatives designed to increase teachers of color have been slow to take hold across the nation.

Mike Lerchenfeldt, a TeachStrong ambassador, is a teacher in the Chippewa Valley Schools.

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