Ari Kiener was MinnCAN’s public affairs manager from 2013-2016.

Yesterday, MinnCAN attended the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership’s ‘Education Equity in Action’ conference, which featured dozens of impressive sponsors and presenters from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, the conference attracted hundreds of attendees—all committed to achieving education equity for our state’s kids.

According to MMEP’s executive director, State Rep. Carlos Mariani, the goal of the daylong conference was to help attendees fill our proverbial gas tanks. We did this by hearing from bold and rousing speakers—like Dr. David Stovall and Maria Hinojosa—and learning strategies for action in a variety of breakout sessions.

Although sharing success stories is certainly energizing, it’s important, too, to fill our tanks and recommit to education equity by recognizing the work left to do. And one prominent discussion at the conference was that when it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers of color, Minnesota has a very long way to go.

In ‘Preparing Effective Teachers of Color for Urban Schools: One University’s Journey,’ a breakout session hosted by Metropolitan State University, I walked away with an overflowing gas tank—not only because of their Urban Education program’s great work to train more teachers of color, but also because of the lingering and very serious “diversity gap” in Minnesota’s teaching force.

According to Rose Chu, Interim Dean of Metropolitan State’s School of Urban Education, less than 4 percent of Minnesota’s public schools teachers are people of color. What’s even more upsetting is that this number has remained relatively stagnant in the last several years, despite the efforts of Metropolitan State and other teacher preparation programs, and the state’s growing population of students of color.

What’s more, Eric Fotsch, Metropolitan State’s Urban Education field experience coordinator, reported that principals are “begging” for more teachers of color. School administrators have read the research and seen firsthand: students of color perform better when taught by teachers of color.

But we know that a teacher of color is not a silver bullet. In fact, the conference’s morning keynote, Dr. Stovall, made that very point, saying that having a teacher of color “doesn’t mean everything’s going to be alright.” And the research confirms this: teacher diversity is irrelevant if the teachers in question aren’t effective teachers.

So how do we recruit, prepare and retain more high-quality teachers of color? We discussed this question in our breakout session, and came up with a couple of ideas:

  • Increase scholarships for low-income licensure candidates so that they can complete their full-time student teaching requirement without taking on an additional financial burden.
  • Grant greater flexibility and funding to districts so that licensure candidates in high-needs schools can get paid for their student teaching.

But what else can be done? How can we encourage more people of color to go into teaching, and then support them in that pursuit?

Help us fill our tanks—share your thoughts below!


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