New Report: Investments Needed to Strengthen STEM Teacher Workforce 


Kristin Costa, [email protected], 408.500.8555

Stephanie Ong, [email protected], 415.786.5568

New Report: Investments Needed to Strengthen STEM Teacher Workforce 

Policymakers can set goals and invest in teacher preparation programs to help diversify the STEM teacher workforce


OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, the Education Trust–West released “Building and Sustaining a Diverse STEM Teacher Pipeline,” a new report exploring the current state of the STEM teacher of color shortage in California’s workforce. The research examines the role of teacher preparation programs, shines a light on the barriers preventing teachers of color from entering the profession and provides recommendations to support future STEM teachers of color. 

By 2022, California will have the largest share of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs across the country. However, too few students in the state’s pre-K through high school education systems — and in particular, students of color — have access to the rigorous STEM learning opportunities and well-prepared STEM teachers needed to pursue future careers in STEM. And while California is the fifth-largest economy in the world and the epicenter of tech and innovation, Latinx Californians make up just 5% of the tech industry, only 2% of tech workers are Black, and less than a third are women. 

“Representation matters and it starts in the classroom,” says Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West. “In a state that values diversity and economic prosperity for all, we need to commit to recruiting and retaining more teachers of color who are prepared to  inspire and educate our state’s future STEM leaders of color.” 

Research shows that students of color are more likely to pursue STEM fields after high school when they have access to strong mentors and role models, yet only three in 10 secondary students of color are taught by a STEM teacher of color. Key findings in the report include:

  • 61% of all students enrolled in California schools are students of color, but only 26% of the teacher workforce are teachers of color. 
  • 75% of all secondary students enrolled in STEM courses are students of color, but only 25% of secondary STEM courses are taught by a teacher of color. 
  • On average, for the last four years, one teacher candidate has completed a credential for every two projected open positions in STEM classrooms. 

“We’re calling on teacher preparation programs and policymakers to purposefully work towards diversifying the STEM teacher pipeline,” says Abby Ridley-Kerr, Research & Data Analyst at The Education Trust–West and lead report author. “We must prioritize equitable access to math and science and expand pipelines for STEM teachers — who reflect the racial, linguistic, and cultural diversity of our state — to enter and stay in the profession.” 

The STEM teacher of color shortage is the product of structural barriers across the recruitment and retention continuum, which could have been addressed if Prop 16 had passed. Despite these results, this new report sheds light on promising practices that policymakers can implement now to cultivate a diverse STEM teacher workforce, including:

  • Set statewide and local goals for diversifying the STEM teaching workforce to better reflect California’s student population. 
  • Adopt resolutions that commit to recruiting and retaining STEM teachers of color. 
  • Facilitate data sharing through the cradle-to-career data system. 
  • Protect funding in the 2021-22 budget to alleviate the cost of becoming a teacher by investing in financial assistance for people interested in becoming STEM teachers. 
  • Expand investments in residency models over the next three years to attract candidates of color and improve retention rates. 

Teacher preparation programs also play a critical role in eliminating recruitment and retention barriers for future STEM teachers of color. Teachers who feel their preparation program failed to adequately equip them to succeed are two to three times more likely to leave the classroom. 

Teachers of color (19 percent) have higher annual turnover and relocation rates and are more likely to leave the profession compared to White teachers (15 percent). To cultivate a diverse STEM teacher pipeline, the report recommends teacher preparation programs: 

  • Train candidates and faculty on culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy. 
  • Increase financial support for candidates of color through targeted grants, fundraising efforts and flexible program pathways, like paid internship requirements. 
  • Expand community partnerships to recruit and retain diverse candidates.  
  • Leverage their undergraduate mathematics, science, and engineering departments to recruit STEM undergraduates interested in teaching.
  • Provide mentorship and professional learning experiences for candidates of color. 

The Education Trust–West also collaborated with California County Superintendents Educational Services Association to create a brochure of best practices for human resources professionals titled, “Recruiting & Retaining Educators of Color: Hiring Practices to Diversify Your Candidate Pool & Strategies to Support and Retain Educators.” The report and brochure were created as part of Seen, Heard, Reflected, a collection of resources to increase representation amongst California’s teacher workforce. To learn more, visit this page.




About The Education Trust-West 

The Education Trust-West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.


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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.