By: Tessa Benavides-Cooper
At the Charles Butt Foundation, we are committed to helping create a more equitable and prosperous future for all students, especially our students of color and those from low-income families. We also believe public schools must continuously improve and innovate to meet the needs of all students. Every child, in every community, deserves access to a high-quality public school so they can pursue and reach their full potential.
Representation matters in public education
Hispanic students make up more than half of students in Texas public schools while teachers who self-identify as Hispanic make up a little more than one-quarter of Texas teachers (according to the 2021 Texas Teacher Workforce Report). According to the 2022 Charles Butt Foundation Poll, about half of Hispanic Texans (49 percent) feel that lack of access to teachers who are the same race/ethnicity as their students is a barrier or significant barrier to learning.
The importance of representation in Texas classrooms is foundational to our work at the Charles Butt Foundation. Through our Raising Texas Teachers program and the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers we continue building a more diverse teacher workforce – that commitment is also embedded in our other statewide programmatic initiatives.
Representation leads to inclusion
Research shows that teacher and school leadership diversity can lead to many positive outcomes for students including an increased sense of belonging within classrooms and schools as well as several positive student outcomes. Teacher Diversity and Student Success (Harvard Press, 2021) highlights evidence that having a same-race teacher improves student test scores, increasing graduation rates, and the likelihood of students enrolling in college.
Two stories from our archives highlight voices from the Hispanic/Latino/a/x/e community reflected in public schools across Texas and also the substantial impact representation and inclusion have on students and teachers.
During his second year in the United States., Dr. Gilberto Lara was in ESL classes and felt a disconnect from his school’s community. His teacher took deliberate steps to ensure Dr. Lara was included in everything the school had to offer. Plays, spelling bees, and notes of admiration for his hard work became sources of inspiration for Dr. Lara.Now a professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio, Dr. Gilberto Lara reminisces on all his teacher did for him in this installment of Voices on Teaching.
Sabina Landeros is a Principal on Special Assignment within the Curriculum and Instruction Department in Cleburne ISD. Early in her teaching career, she sponsored a Hispanic student society on her campus. She quickly began to receive questions from her students who shared her ethnicity and culture about her career, college experience, and cultural expectations of women. These conversations led to giving presentations, meeting parents, and developing an understanding of not letting cultural norms hold you back. In this installment of Voices From The Field, Sabina describes how she used her background to empower her students and their families.
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