Two-thirds of Maryland teachers are still white, data shows

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Maryland’s teacher workforce still remains majority white, according to data recently released by the state Department of Education, but advocates are hopeful that new laws could help turn that around.

According to figures slated to be discussed by the state Board of Education on Tuesday, about 68% of teachers in classrooms during the 2023-24 school year are white. In comparison, about 20% of teachers are Black and about 5% are Latino or Asian.

That is little changed from the last five years. State data shows that for the five school years starting in 2019-20, the average percentage of white teachers in Maryland was 70%, while about 19% were Black and about 4% were Latino or Asian.

During that same time frame, the department’s report said, the racial disparity of students in the classrooms was markedly different: white students at 34%; Black students at 30%; Latino students at 21%; and Asian students at 7%.

In terms of local school systems, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City have the most teachers of color at 79% and 61%, respectively, this school year. Those also represent the state’s majority Black jurisdictions. Montgomery County, the state’s biggest school system, has the fourth-highest percentage of teachers of color, at 31%, just below the state average of 32%.

“We believe that when you have a diverse teaching force, it helps students of color see themselves. It also helps all students,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s teacher’s union.

Bost said some teachers of color are asked to handle other responsibilities outside their classrooms. A 2022 teacher’s workforce report provided quotes from unnamed educators during a statewide diversity teacher roundtable.

For example, Bost said, if a Black teacher is one of the few in a school, that person would be asked to help assist a fellow teacher, administrator or other employee if there was a situation with a Black student. Or if a teacher is bilingual, that person is “often pulled out the class to interpret” for a parent who may not speak English.

“That creates a hardship … which is unfair to those educators of color,” Bost said.

Bost said progress should start later this year thanks to last year’s passage of the state’s Educator Shortage Reduction Act.

That law will let eligible college students who major in education and attend a school where at least 40% of them receive federal Pell Grants, in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, receive an initial stipend. The nearly one dozen colleges eligible for the program included all four of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities, and about three community colleges.

Legislation signed into law last month by Gov. Wes Moore (D) – House Bill 75 and Senate Bill 377 – would allow for any community college student pursuing education to be eligible for a stipend. The legislation would allow recipients in their first or second year at a higher education institution to receive a stipend starting in the 2024-25 school year through 2026-27 school year.

The initial stipend was previously set to be given out in this school year, but a fiscal note states it was delayed a year because the $10 million for the program only “recently” became available to the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The money will come from a teacher retention fund, which will be administered by the commission. The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), within the commission, will determine the amount of the stipends.

The legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery) and Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County) will go into effect July 1.

Moore also signed two different bills aimed at helping to increase teacher diversity in the state’s more than 1,400 public schools. House Bill 975 and Senate Bill 771 will provide alternative pathways into the teaching profession for recent college graduates and new teachers.

The new law would require that applicants get at least a 3.0 grade-point average on the most recent degree, but it would not required that students take one of the Praxis tests, which measure knowledge and classroom skills to become certified teachers. One test can cost $300.

“There’s not a great correlation between that [Praxis] test and teaching skill. It’s not a great indicator how good a teacher someone is going to be,” Ebersole, who worked as a teacher for 35 years, said Monday. “Offering alternative pathways and increasing our teacher workforce is vital.”

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