A nationally representative report on the experiences of Black educators released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, shows a higher percentage of Black teachers had fewer years in the classroom than teachers overall. At the same time, Black teachers had a higher rate of attaining a post-master’s degree (13%) compared to all teachers (9%).
The report is based on data from the 2017-18 National Teacher and Principal Survey, which polled 60,000 part-time and full-time public school teachers among others. It shows 37% of Black teachers had been teaching for more than 15 years, compared to 43% of all teachers who had been teaching that long.
Additional findings from the NCES report reinforce previous research — that Black teachers are highly concentrated in the South, more likely to teach in cities, and much more likely to work in schools with higher rates of minority students.
The survey, conducted prior to the pandemic, comes amid recent evidence of higher teacher turnover triggered by the pandemic. A separate report released last week by MissionSquare Research Institute shows both K-12 teachers and Black people were more likely than other government employees to change jobs.
Teacher burnout during the pandemic has been well-noted, as has the benefit of both long-time teachers and Black educators on student outcomes.
"Years of teaching experience, advanced training, and sharing a cultural identity with students have all been demonstrated to improve student learning outcomes,” said Jerry Rosiek, an education professor at the University of Oregon, in an email. “We should not have to choose between them."
But burnout could have a disproportionate impact on Black and veteran teachers, experts said.
“Veteran teachers experience greater burnout and express health concerns, therefore many of our more veteran educators are resigning or retiring,” said Dana Williams, Georgia state director at the Association of American Educators.
Rosiek added a similar story could be unfolding for teachers of color.
“As is often the case, any added stressors in working conditions often impact non-White professionals harder — because working against the grain of systemic racism in schools is already difficult,” Rosiek said. “So, we may end up losing more teachers of color as a result, which just exacerbates already existing equity challenges."
And as both novice and veteran teachers are now leaving the profession, some places have loosened the qualifications to land a teaching job or enter the profession.
“Unfortunately for our Black students, the new Black teachers lack classroom management, learned teaching strategies, teacher experience, and have little or no on-the-job training,” Williams said. “Because of the pandemic and teacher shortage, many schools are making rash decisions by lowering hiring standards and unfortunately are operating as essentially day care centers.”
These changes to the workforce are unfolding as more students — especially Hispanic and Black students — fall behind, and as the achievement gap widens.
“We need to have a reset on education and figure out how to hire and retain high-performing Black educators so that we are ultimately benefiting all students, but our Black students especially suffer from their absence,” Williams said.