When Denver students return to school later this month, more than 900 new teachers will be starting along with them. Most of those teachers will be white.
The new cohort of teachers, while slightly more diverse than the overall teaching staff last year, highlights a perennial problem for Denver Public Schools and one that officials have put a priority on remedying: too few teachers of color.
In a district where 78 percent of the 91,500 students last year were racial minorities, 74 percent of teachers were white. Some research shows that students of color benefit when they’re taught by teachers who share the same racial and cultural background.
Here is the racial breakdown of the 935 new teachers who’d been hired as of August 1, according to Denver Public Schools:
The 935 new teachers represent about 16 percent of the district’s 5,600 teachers, a category that includes guidance counselors, social workers and nurses. The number of new teachers could still go up because not all positions have been filled, a DPS official said.
The number of new teachers is slightly down from the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, but up from previous years, according to DPS. State teacher turnover statistics show that DPS lost 20 percent of its teachers between 2014-15 and 2015-16, resulting in a turnover rate higher than the state average. The state has not yet released turnover data comparing 2015-16 to 2016-17.
But not all of the 935 new DPS teachers are new to the profession. According to DPS, roughly a third of the new teachers will be entering their first year of teaching. The other two-thirds have taught elsewhere.
Of those approximately 300 first-year teachers, about 100 of them came through alternative teacher training programs such as Teach for America and the Denver Teacher Residency, DPS said. That means those teachers likely have not earned a traditional teaching degree.
All 935 new teachers are spending this week participating in training workshops. At a kickoff event Monday morning, Superintendent Tom Boasberg welcomed them to the district and implored them to become leaders in their classrooms and schools.
“Our kids can’t wait,” he told the teachers. “Nor can you. Please don’t wait. Lead.”