A snowstorm may have hit the Pacific Northwest recently, but the winter weather didn’t stop a group of dedicated practitioners from meeting to address a growing concern: the lack of minority educators in Oregon. Founded with the purpose of developing a plan to meet the goals of the Oregon Minority Teacher Act, members of the Oregon Minority Educator Advisory Group (OMEAG) convened at Education Northwest to share resources and strategies to have a lasting impact on the state’s educators.
Despite some growth, the proportion of minority teachers to minority children in public schools in Oregon continues to fall far short of the goal set by the Minority Teacher Act in 1991, that the number of minority educators—including administrators—be proportionate to the number of minority students enrolled in public schools within 10 years. Twenty years later in 2011, the discrepancy between Oregon’s minority students and minority teachers was 27.26%.
As the rate of minority students in the state continues to increase, the rate of minority educators has not kept apace. The OMEAG wants to change that, and its members know that means implementing new strategies where old ones have failed. Oregon students of color experience systemic disparities, and the OMEAG believes an educator population that better reflects the student population will help to reduce those disparities and ensure better outcomes for Oregon students.
“We cannot continue to have a state with majority white educators if we’re going to close the achievement gap,” said Theresa Ferrer of the Oregon Education Association, adding that a “tectonic shift” will be needed to meet the group’s goals.
“As Oregon becomes more diverse, we want our educator population to reflect that,” added Donald Easton-Brooks, dean of the College of Education at Eastern Oregon University and the group’s chairperson.
Though members of the OMEAG know they’re facing a difficult challenge, the group is energized and ready to take on Oregon’s lack of minority educators to ensure more equitable outcomes for all students.