Staffing classrooms with diverse teacher talent has become a growing priority for schools across the nation. And it’s no wonder. Studies have shown that the presence of more teachers of color in classrooms substantially increases student success and well-being.
In this post, we’ll highlight 3 benefits of recruiting more teachers of color for your district’s most important stakeholders: your students. We’ll also outline 4 promising practices you can adopt to increase diversity in your talent pool and help shape thriving classrooms!
Impact of Educators of Color on Student Success
Although the number of teachers of color staffed in classrooms has increased steadily over the years, they still comprise of less than 20 percent of the teacher workforce, while students of color make up nearly half of all public school students. Nationwide, not one state has a proportionate number of teachers of color to students of color, and more than 40 percent of public schools don’t employ a single non-white teacher.
These statistics reveal how a lack of teacher diversity can contribute to the student achievement gap. There are several ways that the presence of more teachers of color helps students thrive:
- Student performance: Research has shown that having at least one teacher of color can drastically boost the academic performance of minority students. In fact, black elementary students taught for just one year by a black teacher had reading and math STAR test scores 3 to 6 percentile points higher than students not taught by black teachers. These gains in test scores accumulated with each year that students were in classes with a teacher of the same race. In addition to higher test scores, having at least one same-race teacher means that students of color are more likely to attend class regularly and attend a four-year college, and less likely to drop out of high school.
- Self-esteem and well-being: There is also research evidence that teachers’ perceptions, expectations, and behaviors interact with students’ beliefs, behaviors, and work habits in ways that help to perpetuate the Black-White test score gap. The Brown Center and others highlight the common theory that the presence of more teachers of color in the classroom can inspire students of color to visualize their own success, boosting their chances of graduating and attending college.
- Cultural Understanding: Research and theory also highlight the role teachers of color can play in fostering cultural understanding and culturally relevant curricula — which contribute both to closing the discipline gap and producing substantial gains in attendance, GPA and credits earned.
Promising Practices for Recruiting More Educators of Color
Given the many ways teachers of color enhance the learning environment for students, we’ve outlined 4 key practices (with examples!) that districts can implement to diversify their talent pipeline:
- Hire earlier than you think you need to: According to a report detailing Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) Human Capital Initiative, a higher number of in-demand candidates of color may be available earlier in the year. BPS was able to recruit substantially more candidates of color earlier in the year — in fact, 40% of candidates hired between March and May were black or Hispanic while that number dropped to only 27% of those hired in August. To move hiring timelines up, districts can offer incentives for teachers to announce their resignations and submit their requests for school reassignment by early spring. For example, in 2014, Shelby County Schools began offering a $600 bonus as a financial incentive for teachers who submit their notice by April. As a result of this incentive, the district was able to identify around 700 openings — more than half of its projected vacancies for the upcoming year — by April 15th, and staff some of its highest-need schools by the end of April.
- Offer the right financial incentives: Research by the Brown Center for Education Policy finds that offering financial incentives that include student loan forgiveness, relocation assistance, and bonuses for teaching in hard-to -staff schools is associated with increases of 2 to 4 percentage points in the number of teachers of color staffed at a school. Providing student loan forgiveness and relocation assistance can be particularly attractive to college graduates of color who are significantly more likely to have student loan debt. In recent years, companies like Landed have sprung up to help districts offer down payment support, homebuyer education, and financial wellness to their teaching force.
- Partner with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs): The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) recommends that districts partner with MSIs’ teacher preparation programs to vet candidates for hire before they graduate. Districts can work with these programs to streamline applications and identify top candidates. One study cited by the Learning Policy Institute showed that schools who partnered with MSIs and other colleges and universities with sizable black and latinx populations, and narrowed their recruitment efforts to clubs focused on students of color, were more successful in their diversity recruitment efforts. “Successful schools also formed informal relationships with ‘connectors’ who could help them communicate with communities of color. In many cases, these connectors were teachers of color already at the school site who could reach out to their churches, alumni organizations, fraternal organizations, and other networks.”
- Partner with alternative certification programs: Alternative certification programs, which recruit and train non-traditional candidates to become educators, can be great sources for minority teacher talent. Most recruitment teams are aware of programs like Teacher for America (TFA), but many aren’t aware that about half of TFA’s 2017 recruits (3,500 corps members) identified as people of color. KIPP Los Angeles credits its partnership with TFA for nearly tripling the number of new teachers placed from one year to the next, and in the 2017–18 school year, 40% of KIPP-LA’s 368 teachers identified as Latino and 17% identified as African-American or black.
Although there are many factors influencing the diversity of the teacher workforce, district recruiters and hiring managers can play a critical role by establishing hiring practices that expand opportunities for talented teachers of color. All four hiring practices outlined above can be suited to fit any district’s recruitment style — and ultimately, they serve as important steps toward helping our schools provide high quality education for all students!