In contrast to the growing diversity among the student population, the teaching profession is increasingly dominated by White female teachers. O. Jorgenson (2000) states that “school districts across the United States confront an urgent shortage of minority educators, while the number of minority students in the public schools steadily increases. This imbalance is expected to worsen” (pp. 1–2). M. Haberman (1988) further states that “[h]aving too few minority teachers is merely one manifestation of under-educating minority children and youth in inadequate elementary and secondary schools” (p. 39).
Teachers need not come from the same racial/ethnic or linguistic background as their students in order to teach effectively (Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995). Given the increasing student diversity even within individual classrooms, matching teachers with students of similar backgrounds is often not feasible. But when teachers of any background are unaware of the cultural and linguistic knowledge that their nonmainstream students bring to the classroom (Gay, 2002; Osborne, 1996; Villegas & Lucas, 2002), or when they lack opportunities to reflect upon how students' minority or immigrant status may affect their educational experience (Cochran-Smith, 1995a, 1995b; Valli, 1995), there is clearly a need for teacher education that specifically addresses teachers' beliefs and practices with regard to student diversity as it relates to subject areas.
Teachers face the challenge of making academic content accessible and meaningful for students from a broad range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.