‘Birds of a feather flock together’ appears to ring true in education, as students say they perform better when they are taught by teachers of the same race or gender.
A study carried out by Tes found pupils who were taught by teachers who shared their race and gender were more likely to understand the class material as well as be considering going to university.
The most notable improvements were observed in female students who had a female teacher, particularly between young black women and black women teachers.
Students reported feeling more cared for and supported by teachers who shared characteristics with them, which encouraged them to do their best work for these teachers.
However, even in the multicultural state of Virginia, the racial diversity of the student body is far from reflected in the teaching demographics.
At Fairfax County School, Virginia, more than 60 percent of students were not white. Despite this, only 18 percent of the school’s teaching staff represented a racial minority, reported The Washington Post.
This means the majority of students at Fairfax County School are not seeing adults of their race as authority figures.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand told The Washington Post: “Every child needs to be able to see their hopes and dreams realised and see real-life role models of folks that look like them doing things that they love, having success.
“Every teacher, no matter what your background, can do that. But I think we need to create a culture and a society where diversity is a strength.”
In the 2016-17 school year, 81.5 percent of Fairfax teachers were white, 7.3 percent were black, 4.9 percent were Asian, 4.2 percent were Hispanic or Latino and 2 percent were multiracial, according to 2016 enrollment numbers from the Virginia Department of Education.
Meanwhile, 39.3 percent of Fairfax students were white, 25.4 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 19.5 percent were Asian, 10.1 percent were black and 5.3 percent were multiracial.
Officials have claimed they are addressing this imbalance through recruitment drives and analyses of the current recruitment process.
A study has found black applicants with more advanced qualifications and classroom experience are less likely to receive teaching offers than white teachers going for the same role.
In 2016-17, white candidates made up 65.8 percent of qualified applicants and accounted for 74.8 percent of candidates who ended up working in the district.
Black applicants made up 11.3 percent of qualified applicants and accounted for 8.5 percent of teachers who accepted teaching posts.
“We need to have a workforce that reflects the diversity of our students. The reality is that our work around hiring teachers of colour is improving but it’s still not where we want it to be,” Braband said.