Giving Compass' Take:

• KIPP LA schools along with many others are trying to recruit more black and Latino teachers in an effort to bring diversity and have more students and teachers be able to connect and understand each other's experiences. 

• How can we encourage more diversity in students who are studying to become teachers? Is this cycle impossible to overcome? 

• Read about a potential root cause for the teacher diversity problem. 

Each year, on the first day of school at KIPP Academy of Opportunity in South Los Angeles, teacher Kasi Moore-Watts has a reliable way of getting her students’ attention.

Her mom was on drugs, Moore-Watts tells them, and her grandparents raised her. When she shares her background with students, she said, she sees “heads that might’ve been hidden under a hoodie kind of pop out and be like, ‘That’s my story, too.’”

Nationally, whites now make up less than 50 percent of K-12 students but more than 75 percent of the teachers. A quarter of public school students are Latino, but only 8 percent of teachers identify that way. Black and Latino males make up just 2 percent of K-12 teachers.

A study released last year by the Institute of Labor Economics found that “assigning a black male to a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grades significantly reduces the probability that [the student] drops out of high school, particularly among the most economically disadvantaged black males.”

In the midst of a national teacher shortage, this accumulation of evidence has resulted in schools across the country pushing to attract more black and Latino teachers, especially those who hail from communities close to their would-be schools.

KIPP-LA is addressing an imbalance that exists in classrooms coast to coast. California has nearly doubled its percentage of Latino teachers over the past 20 years, but the percentage of Latino students statewide is growing even faster, resulting in a bigger gap between Latino students and teachers in 2016-17 than there was in 1999.

As much progress as KIPP LA is making, Michael Hansen, who directs the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, believes that until the pool of potential teachers grows larger, the strategy of increasing teacher diversity is limited.

Read the full article about diversity in teachers by Brendan Lowe at The 74