But are the teaching and principal workforces in charter schools more diverse as well? The answer: yes.
What the data says
In December 2022, The National Center for Education Statistics released a series of reports that provide a first look at data from the 2020-21 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). The purpose of NTPS is to provide a detailed picture of U.S. elementary and secondary schools and their staff with data. Data are collected through school, principal, and teacher surveys. The 2020–21 NTPS selected samples included about 9,900 public schools—both district and charter—and their principals and 68,300 public school teachers. Data were collected between October 2020 and August 2021.
Among the findings: the teacher and leader workforces in charter schools are more racially and ethnically diverse than district public schools.
Specifically, the 2020-21 NTPS survey finds that 81% of district school teachers are white, compared to 69% of teachers at charter schools. Charter schools have more teachers of color with 32% of charter school teachers being individuals of color compared to 19% of district school teachers. As far as leaders are concerned, the 2020-21 NTPS survey finds that 78% of district school principals are white, compared to 67% of charter school principals. Charter schools have more principals of color with 33% of charter school principals being individuals of color compared to 22% of district school principals.
Why it matters
A growing body of academic literature shows when students have the opportunity to be “matched” to a teacher that is of the same race or ethnicity, there are positive academic and social benefits. Specifically:
- Academic benefits. A study conducted by Egalite, Kisida, and Winters (2015) finds small but statistically significant positive impacts in reading for white and Black students when assigned a “race-congruent” teacher, and positive impacts in math for white, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islander students.
- More Positive Student Teacher Relationships. A study conducted by Egalite and Kisida (2018) finds students who were assigned a teacher with similar demographic characteristics experience positive benefits on things such as personal effort, happiness in class, feeling cared for and motivated by their teachers amongst other things.
- Decreased Absences and Suspensions. A study by Holt and Gershenson (2017) finds having teachers of a similar or race or ethnicity present in a school reduces both absenteeism and suspensions based on data from primary schools in North Carolina.
- Higher Levels of Educational Attainment. A study by Gershenson, Hart, Hyman, Lindsay, and Papageorge (2018) finds Black students in Tennessee who are assigned at least one Black teacher in grades K-3 are 9 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school and 6 percentage points more likely to enroll in college.
Charter schools—public schools of choice that are free and open to all—have long served a more diverse student body than district public schools. One of the many ways that charter schools are serving students well and preparing them for a successful future is focusing on providing classrooms and schools that reflect the communities they serve. With teachers and principals who are of the same race or ethnicity and from their own community, students experience inclusion, inspiration, and encouragement.
Drew Jacobs is the senior director of research, policy, and evaluation at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.