SUNY Chancellor on teacher diversity: “We have to correct that”

Aug 15, 2016

As minority students become a majority in public schools, there are still disproportionate numbers of minority teachers in the classroom. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley asked two top state education leaders about trying to attract more students of color to consider the teaching profession. 

Teacher in hallway at Lafayette in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“It's all about that broad network of difference and making sure that that difference feeds all of our cultural competence,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher responded.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher & NYSED Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Chancellor Zimpher addressing WBFO’s question about how to create more teacher diversity in classrooms.

Studies and government numbers show as minority students are now becoming the majority in many public school districts, particularly in urban districts, more than 80-percent of the teachers are white.

“Well one of the thing we have been doing at SUNY is really changing our profile in New York City. That’s where a lot of diversity exists and we are trying to attract more students from downstate to upstate. That will feed the teacher education pipeline. We know there is a disproportionate number of Anglo-teachers serving a disproportionate number of students who are of diverse ethnicity and race, so we have to correct that,” Zimpher replied.

But what about Buffalo? New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia points out that partnerships can make a big difference in expanding the teaching base.

NYSED Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia & SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“You have the Buffalo city school system right here. You have the University at Buffalo centered in it. You have Buffalo State centered it and partnerships growing between those two organizations will support the fact that we need diverse teachers in our classrooms and we need to work to make that happen, very purposefully to make that happen,” explained Elia.

Teacher diversity is being tied to student success.  Chancellor Zimpher tells WBFO News it is  important to teacher teachers about being 'culturally confident' no matter what ‘zip code’ they come from. But Zimpher said they have much work to do in this arena.