As districts struggle to make the proportion of Black teachers more reflective of student demographics, a report released this month by the National Center for Teacher Residencies offers six recommendations to improve preparation and recruitment of Black educators. The guidance draws from lessons learned from the organization’s Black Educators Initiative, which aims to recruit and retain 750 Black educators between 2019 and 2024.
The recommendations — focused on teacher preparation programs, school districts and states — call for making teacher preparation financially accessible and prioritizing recruitment strategies focusing on Black educators. Teacher preparation programs should also be culturally sustainable for Black teachers, according to the guidance.
Affinity groups and investments in mentors to support Black educators need to be a key focus of the teacher’s education experience, the report said. Overall, Black educators’ voices must be included in teacher preparation policies, NCTR added.
The latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics in 2017-18 shows 7% of teachers were Black. Yet in 2020, 15% of students were Black, according to NCES data.
The benefits of hiring teachers who match their students’ race can include less exclusionary discipline for Black and Latinx students in large, diverse and urban districts, according to a 2021 working paper from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University. Black students are also more likely to graduate high school if they had a teacher of the same race in grades K-3, another study found.
Amplifying educators of color
In addition to the Black Educators Initiative, other efforts are underway to encourage and support more teachers and leaders of color.
The Surge Institute, a nonprofit that supports increased racial diversity in education leadership, has a mission to elevate 5,000 or more leaders of color by 2030. To do this, the organization is broadening and deepening its established fellowship program, said Carmita Semaan, Surge Institute founder.
That program brings cohort groups of emerging education leaders together to network and hone skills needed to thrive in top management roles. Since 2015, the program has graduated 300 fellows, Semaan said.
"We believe that the genius within our communities is ubiquitous, and we want people to be in positions to really influence policy, strategy, funding decisions that allow for sustainable outcomes and opportunities for young people no matter where they are," said Semaan, who previously worked as a chemical engineer at a corporation and then as a district administrator for Chicago Public Schools.
As she worked both in the business world and in education, she noticed "the higher up you went in those organizations, the more senior and executive the roles were, the fewer and fewer folks in those positions had shared experience and lived experience with those that they were serving."
Leadership pipelines were also limiting, Semaan said.
"I want to create space that is unapologetically about investing in Black, brown, Asian leadership with shared experiences with our students to amplify, elevate and support them to prepare them for roles that allow them to be sitting at tables where they are impacting strategy, power, financial decisions, all of those things," she said.
The One Million Teachers of Color campaign, led by a coalition of education organizations, is another initiative supporting progressive pathways to the education profession and inclusive environments for teachers and education leaders of color. Over the next decade, the organizations hope to add 1 million teachers of color and 30,000 leaders of color to the education community.
"The One Million Teachers of Color (1MToC) coalition’s effort is a critical need given that over the past two decades, the K-12 student population has become much more racially diverse. However, that same trend in diversity is not reflected in teachers and school leaders in public schools," said Javaid Siddiqi, president and CEO of The Hunt Institute, in an email. The Hunt Institute is one of the organizations in the coalition.
Making teaching pathways accessible
Some states are working to break down barriers Black educators face when pursuing education careers by making teacher preparation and retention programs more financially accessible, said Eric Duncan, director for P-12 policy at The Education Trust, during a virtual panel Wednesday hosted by the National Center for Teacher Residencies. The Education Trust has developed a state-by-state tracker looking at efforts focused on improving teacher diversity and equity.
For more than 25 years, Florida state policy has called for investing in scholarships to prepare thousands of teachers of color to get their teaching certifications, and about 90% of those recipients have taught in Florida public schools, according to Duncan.
Nevada is among states investing in loan forgiveness programs to encourage teachers of color to stay in the teaching profession, Duncan said. Meanwhile, Connecticut provides mortgage assistance to teachers of color to help them build wealth and mitigate some of the student loan debt teachers of color accrue, he said.
As these efforts to raise awareness and develop policy solutions to bolster teacher diversity continue, teacher shortages continue to plague states.
At the same time, teacher layoffs are potentially looming as districts’ last obligation deadlines for federal COVID-19 relief dollars approach in September 2024. The National Council on Teacher Quality recently reported that districts still typically rely on seniority policies when deciding teacher layoffs, which can disproportionately impact newer educators, who are more likely to be teachers of color.
But other federal investments are still advancing to improve recruitment and retention of teachers of color, as seen through opportunities in apprenticeship model programs and the Hawkins Center for Excellence, Duncan said.