On Wednesday, The Education Trust released a report titled “Our Stories, Our Struggles, Our Strengths” that addresses the challenges of Latino teachers in the United States, which make up only eight percent of the teacher workforce, compared to the 25 percent of the nation’s students who are Latino.
“We decided to do this study because there is a lot of conversation about education diversity without educator voices of color, and we wanted to elevate those voices,” Dr. Ashley Griffin, director of research at The Education Trust, told Latino USA.
The data for the study was collected from a sample of 90 Latino teachers from five states, North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Florida and Texas; the overwhelming majority of the volunteer-based focus groups (90 percent) taught in cities.
According to the study, Latino teachers are the fastest-growing population entering the teaching workforce, but they are also exiting the profession at higher rates than other teachers. Griffin said that population shifts explain why there are more teachers entering the workforce. However, that doesn’t translate to retention. Many teachers shared stories about being expected to work overtime at their schools, or being discouraged to share their culture with students. They cited exploitation and disheartening work environments as reasons why they abandon the profession
“Even though students request and enjoy conversations about intersection, teachers receive pushback from colleagues and their administrators,” Griffin said. “They feel responsible to protect and safeguard their culture and enrich students who aren’t Latino, but have to constantly resist the notion that they can ‘only’ teach Latinos.”
Griffin added that much of their pro-bono work isn’t valued, like then they’re expected to serve as translators for other school services. “Many teachers do this out of commitment to their students, but it takes away from their class responsibilities. There is an assumption that the translation will take place simply because the teacher is bilingual,” she said.
The findings highlight the significance not only of non-Latino students to learn about other cultures from their teacher’s experience, but for Latino students to see themselves in their teachers. There are an estimated 20,000 teachers eligible for DACA, 90 percent of whom are Latino. These teachers, like many of their students, face the reality of losing their protected status.
“I can share bits of my life and my story with students, not as a way to say, ‘See, I did it. I was undocumented. I got to go to college,’ but to build solidarity,” said one teacher cited in the study.
“This is about supporting people of color, not just about adding them to the workforce,” Griffin said. “Diversity is critical to our educator workforce, and school district leaders need to understand the challenges of this population.”
The Education Trust is a non-profit which seeks to close education inequality gaps among students of color. The entire study is below.