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North Carolina ‘driving’ toward more diverse corps of educators

North Carolina ‘driving’ toward more diverse corps of educators

North Carolina’s population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse every day, but according to a report issued by Gov. Roy Cooper’s DRIVE Task Force, its educators don’t nearly reflect that diversity. 

The DRIVE report , which stands for “Developing a Representative and Inclusive Vision for Education,” was issued this past Jan. 1 after Cooper called for a task force  that was eventually convened in May 2020. 

The report shows that for the 2018-19 school year, more than 50 percent of students in NC schools were of a racially or ethnically distinct background, while only about 20 percent of educators were. 

Although that’s not a surprise given the legacy of segregated education in the United States — particularly in the South — Dr. Anthony Graham, provost at Winston-Salem State University and chair of the task force, says it’s still a problem for students of all ethnicities. 

“Research shows that all students, but particularly students of color, experience benefits when taught by teachers of color,” Graham writes in a preface to the report. “Students experience not only significant academic outcomes but positive impacts relative to college aspirations and self-confidence.”

See also:

• WNC behind state average in educator diversity
• Integration and the disappearance of Black teachers
• Committed to movement: WCU professors push for diversity in education

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The DRIVE report goes on to list a number of goals that would provide a workforce of educators that’s more reflective of the students they teach, including increasing the number educators of color in the pipeline by at least 15 percent each year.   

“Data illustrate that people of color become educators at lower rates than their white peers,” Graham writes. 

Recommendations from the task force to address the supply of educators of color include offering affordable postsecondary access through scholarships, bolstering student loan forgiveness and tuition reimbursement programs and making diversity goals part of the key performance metrics for schools and school districts. 

Another goal outlined in the report stresses the importance of retaining at least 95 percent of the state’s educators of color each year, because Graham says that educators of color also leave the profession at higher rates than their peers. 

That retention level could be achieved by strengthening support networks for educators of color and providing professional development opportunities that can sustain pathways for advancement in the field. 

Even as some Western North Carolina locals can look back on desegregation in their own schools, others in The Smoky Mountain News coverage area — like a group of educators at Western Carolina University — are now looking toward the future, attempting to take meaningful action that will “drive” the state toward higher academic achievement for all students. 

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