A UCR professor’s annual institute seeks to turn isolation — a fact of life for teachers of color across the country — into action
By Tess Eyrich on June 12, 2018
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About 120 educators of color from across the country will arrive at UCR from June 21-23 to attend the annual Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, a conference co-founded and co-directed by UCR Graduate School of Education Assistant Professor Rita Kohli.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Picture your favorite childhood teacher: Was she a white woman? If you grew up and attended a public school in the United States, statistics indicate she probably was.
Historically, the average American public school teacher has always been a white woman. Even today, white teachers continue to comprise 80 percent of the country’s 3.8 million public school teachers, according to data released in 2017 by the National Center for Education Statistics.
What has shifted more dramatically, however, are the demographics of public school students in the United States. Of the 50.7 million students who entered public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2017, 26.3 million — nearly 52 percent — were students of color. As student bodies grow increasingly diverse, it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the representation gap between students of color and the mostly white teachers who serve them.
For researchers such as Rita Kohli, the problem of teacher diversity is an especially pressing one. A former teacher in Northern California’s Oakland Unified School District, Kohli, who is South Asian, has experienced firsthand the marginalization and alienation that accompany being a teacher of color on a predominately white staff.
Kohli arrived at the University of California, Riverside four years ago and is now an assistant professor in UCR’s Graduate School of Education. She studies efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color at a time when annual rates of attrition, or teacher …