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The nation’s teacher force lacks diversity, and it might not get much better

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WASHINGTON — Persistent achievement gaps among black and Hispanic students have confounded education experts for years. One strategy that researchers have found to be successful at narrowing the gaps is a simple one: Employ more minority teachers, who often can forge a better connection with them.

But a new study from the Brookings Institution and the National Council on Teacher Quality identifies several challenges school districts must address in seeking to increase the ranks of minorities leading classrooms, including a leaky recruiting pipeline that could lead to a dearth of qualified candidates lasting decades.

Because few minority college graduates are choosing to become teachers, it is increasingly difficult to recruit minorities into classrooms where they could potentially boost the performance of minority children and increase the pipeline of teacher candidates, according to the study, released Thursday. The authors described it as a cyclical problem that could remain for decades if hiring practices and recruiting efforts do not change significantly. The study suggests there will be minimal improvement as far out as 2060.

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The study — from Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero of Brookings and Kate Walsh and Hannah Putman of the NCTQ — notes that while minority children account for half of the nation's student body in public schools, minority teachers make up just 18 percent of the workforce, creating a significant disparity.