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Credit: Ilana Wurman

A recent study by University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education suggests that the composition of the teaching force has seen dramatic changes in recent decades, and more are forthcoming.

Researchers identified seven trends in the diversity and stability of the teaching force, with findings pertaining to the age, gender, race, and academic ability of today’s teachers. 

A particularly central finding is that the workforce has inflated significantly, with a 64 percent increase in the number of teachers between 1988 and 2016. 

Increases in racial diversity among teachers have come as a result of efforts across the United States to facilitate paths to careers in education for minorities, the report said. While a gap persists in the proportion of minority teachers to minority students, there has been a 162 percent increase in the number of minority teachers from 1988 to 2016 compared to a 51 percent increase in the number of white teachers. 

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission took part in this initiative to racially diversify the teacher workforce by passing over Penn when choosing a program to train new Philadelphia teachers in 2017. The commission made this decision so that minority candidates would be able to better afford their education.

According to the report, while the teacher workforce has seen positive changes from a racial diversity perspective, the gender distribution has only been skewed further in recent decades. The proportion of female teachers lies at 76 percent and is only expected to increase. 

Penn GSE professor and lead author of the study Richard Ingersoll is unsure of the sustainability of the rapid expansion of the teaching force. "The growth in teaching has been spectacular, and our point is, there is going to be a price," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

The researchers said they plan to continue their studies of the implications of the changes. 

“These data suggest a very large opportunity—one of the largest occupations in the nation is being expanded, replaced, and re-made,” the report stated. “Who will our new teachers be?”

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