Seen, Heard, Reflected: Education Trust-West Launches New Campaign to Address California’s Teacher of Color Shortage


Jason Mandell
[email protected]
(213) 500-9142

OAKLAND, CA (November 5, 2019) – In California, while more than 3 out of 4 California students are students of color, just barely 1 in 3 of their teachers are teachers of color, according to an infographic released as part of Education Trust–West’s new campaign. The Seen, Heard, Reflected campaign aims to erase California’s shortage of teachers of color and prepare, recruit, and retain a more racially diverse pool of teachers across the state—especially male teachers of color, teachers of color in STEM, and women in STEM.

Schools across California are facing a critical teacher shortage, and the shortfall is especially acute when it comes to teachers of color. The infographic reveals that more than half of California’s TK-12 schools don’t have even one Black teacher, and more than 100,000 students across the state attend schools where every single teacher is White.

“Educational justice demands that our students and their teachers are seen, heard, and reflected in our schools,” said Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of the Education Trust–West. “The research is clear that having teachers of color matters for all students—especially students of color. But for me, this isn’t just about studies and statistics. It’s personal. It’s a reminder of all those times teachers and professors who didn’t look like me made me question whether I really had what it took.”

Studies have found that teachers who share their students’ race set higher expectations and improve the school experience for students of color. Teacher diversity has been linked to higher graduation rates, college enrollment, and advanced course-taking for students of color. But it’s not just students of color who benefit. Students of all races report forming stronger connections and learning better when they have teachers of color.

Dr. Travis J. Bristol, thought leader and assistant professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, shared, “as we prepare our children to learn and live in a global community, we owe it to all of our children to have teachers who reflect the rich ethnoracial diversity across our globe.”

The challenge in diversifying the teacher workforce goes beyond hiring and recruitment. Nationally, school districts are hiring teachers of color at a faster rate than White teachers, but research shows they are losing them faster, too. A report last month from The Education Trust and Teach Plus found that Black and Latinx teachers face unique hurdles to entering and staying in the profession.

“We all need to do our part to advocate for teachers of color,” said Smith Arrillaga. “We have made some progress: the Governor’s inclusion of nearly $90 million for the Golden State Teacher Grant Program in his budget, for example. But we all have much more to do. Lawmakers must reinstate and expand financial support so that aspiring educators can afford to teach in one of the most expensive states in the country. District and school leaders need to support teachers of color who often take on extra work by virtue of being one of just a few. And school administrators need to expand their search for teachers beyond the usual pipelines.”


The Education Trust–West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college. 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.

More Posts

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.