As part of the recent “Black Lives Matter at School” movement, we’ve seen many opinion pieces published about why various educators believe schools need better representation of people of color among their teaching staff. But is there any evidence that having a racially diverse group of teachers actually benefits students? Let’s take a look at how race impacts student achievement, and how your school can develop a racially and ethnically diverse staff.
How does a diverse teaching force affect student outcomes?
Evidence suggests that having a racially diverse teaching staff is beneficial for all students, including white students.
- Better performance on standardized tests
- Higher attendance rates
- Lower rates of disciplinary issues
- Better chances of completing high school
- Better chances of pursuing higher education
Additionally, REL Northwest explains that “bilingual and bicultural teachers may have a greater ability to engage culturally and linguistically diverse students and to teach in bilingual settings”.
There is also evidence that white students benefit from having a racially and ethnically diverse teaching staff by:
- Becoming exposed to new perspectives
- Realizing an increased sense of civic engagement
- Developing better problem-solving and critical thinking skills
- Expanding their range of creativity and social-and-emotional learning (SEL) skills
How do we know that schools need more diversity among teachers?
The Center for American Progress reports a significant underrepresentation of culturally diverse teachers in US public schools:
- In 2017, 52% of students were non-white, and this proportion of “minority” students is only expected to grow over the coming years.
- However, only about 14.6% of teachers are Black or Latinx.
- Over 40% of schools do not have any non-white teachers.
Why is it so challenging to hire a racially diverse teaching force?
There are many factors that cause challenges in recruiting teachers of color. We can easily identify some of the basic challenges in developing a diverse pipeline of new teachers:
High School Graduation Rates (Education Counts Research Center, 2010)
High School Grads Enrolled in College (US Department of Education, 2007)
25-64 year olds with an Associate’s Degree or Higher (US Census Bureau, 2010)
As you can see, Black and Latinx Americans are significantly less likely than white Americans to complete college—a basic requirement for becoming a teacher. Additionally, those who do attend college are likely to pursue a degree which has the potential to lead to a more financially lucrative career than teaching.
When new teachers of color enter the workforce, they are also less likely to stick around. In addition to receiving relatively low pay, REL Northwest reports that many teachers of color face challenges such as placement “in schools with weak organizational conditions, poor leadership, and difficult working conditions”.
How can school districts and schools attract more teachers of color?
Your school district or school should consider incorporating one or more of the following recruitment tactics to attract more Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented races to your teaching force:
- Partner with local colleges and universities — Evidence shows that teachers of color are motivated to work in schools located in areas similar to those where they grew up. Consider partnering with local higher education institutes in your area to recruit up-and-coming teachers of color who already feel like they belong in your community.
- Partner with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and multilingual higher education institutes — Develop relationships with HBCUs that offer teaching degrees to raise awareness about your career opportunities among students of color. You can also research colleges which offer bilingual or multilingual teaching courses to recruit future teachers who can work with English language learners (ELLs).
- Use data to inform recruitment marketing strategies — REL Northwest recommends using data to predict hiring needs for the coming years to help strategize when and where you target marketing efforts at colleges. Data can also help your district and school leaders understand the incentives new teachers are seeking in their careers.
- Partner with alternative teacher preparation programs — REL Northwest reports that these programs are more likely to serve students of color who may not have had the opportunity to attend a traditional university program.
- Leverage relationships with “informal connectors” — Consider the networks of your staff, friends, and other community members. Nurture these relationships to continually build a pipeline of potential recruits when job openings become available at your school.
- Develop early outreach programs — The Center for American Progress explains that high schools can incorporate programs which encourage students of color to pursue degrees in education following their graduation. These students may qualify for financial assistance programs targeted toward students of color and/or students pursuing a teaching career.
One of the most important things to do when employing any of these tactics is to plan ahead. Begin outreach efforts at least several months in advance of a job opening so candidates have time to consider your school during their career planning.
How can school districts and schools retain more teachers of color?
It may not be possible for your leaders to offer higher pay to prospective teachers of color, but you can reduce turnover by providing adequate support and appreciation during their tenure. Teachers of color (like all teachers) need access to frequent and consistent professional development opportunities to feel like they have the supports they need to face teaching challenges, especially when they are placed in difficult teaching scenarios.
Schedule a free call with the Center for Student Achievement Solutions to learn more about evidence-based professional development you can provide for your teachers. We can help you create a custom professional development strategy including training in the areas of:
- Blended learning and distance learning programs
- Culturally responsive classrooms
- Classroom and behavior management, and more