Supporting Teachers of Color - Digital Promise Research Map

Supporting Teachers of Color

What is necessary to better support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color?

Introduction

Teachers of color are underrepresented in the U.S. education system. More than 50 percent of the K-12 student body comprises students of color, which does not match up when looking at the teacher demographic breakdown.[i] According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 79 percent of the nation’s teaching force is white, while seven percent are Black/African American, nine percent are Hispanic, two percent are Asian, and two percent are two or more races.[ii] This discrepancy has significant consequences for students of color and individuals of color who want to become teachers, as well as the country’s education system overall.

 Many teachers enter the profession because they were positively influenced and inspired by former teachers. While teaching can be a rewarding profession, there are several obstacles that affect teacher recruitment and retention, especially for teachers of color. Racism, implicit bias, and underrepresentation are just a few of the challenges that confront teachers of color. These challenges have a negative impact on individual development in relation to completing school, obtaining a college degree, and having a successful teaching career.[iii]

The sections below examine some key findings from the research on the recruitment and retention of teachers of color, including how students benefit from teachers of color, the barriers and challenges to entering and staying in the teaching profession, and programs and practices to support teachers of color.

Key Findings

Advantages of Having Teachers of Color

All students benefit from engaging with teachers of color.

Research has identified that having teachers of color in schools yields multiple benefits, from academic success to fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Research has identified that having teachers of color in schools yields multiple benefits, from academic success to fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion. Studies also suggest that all students, including white students, benefit from having teachers of color because they bring distinct knowledge and experiences, and can be seen as role models to the student body.[iv] One study found that students of all races—including white, Black, Latino, and Asian—have more positive perceptions of their Black and Latino teachers than they do of their white teachers.[v] Another advantage of being taught by a diverse teacher workforce is that it can help better prepare all students with skills they need in the future workforce or civic life.[vi]

Students of color experience more academic success and inclusion when taught by teachers of color.

Research has demonstrated that teachers of color can boost academic performances of students of color. In one study, students of color were more likely to pass a class and earn a B or higher when taught by teachers of color.[vii] Research also shows that by increasing the number of teachers of color, schools have the potential to minimize the problem of implicit bias, which has been cited as a factor in the disproportionate number of African American boys referred to special education and getting suspended.[viii]

When teachers of color are employed in school environments where they feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves, students of color benefit. These students find comfort in knowing that there are teachers that look like them, and tend to feel more free to be themselves when they are around teachers of color.[ix] However, teachers of color often function as cultural translators who act as advocates for students of color,[x] which, while beneficial for these students, can also add additional responsibilities and pressures on teachers of color.[xi]

Barriers to Becoming and Remaining a Teacher

Teachers of color confront systemic challenges to obtain college degrees.

The path to higher education success is not easy, and this difficulty is amplified for students of color. Racism, in the form of overt discrimination and implicit biases, creates barriers that have severe ramifications for an individual of color’s growth toward school completion, degree attainment, and having a successful career.[xii] Individuals of color who did not have opportunities to complete rigorous coursework in high school may be underprepared for college-level courses, which can discourage them from completing their college degrees.[xiii] For example, Black students are much more likely to be placed in special needs settings and much less so in gifted and talented programs,[xiv] which can make the transition to higher education even more challenging. And forms of covert racism continue to set up roadblocks that interfere with individuals of color from obtaining a college degree and following professional careers, including entering the teacher workforce.[xv]

Another systemic factor that influences individuals of color from even pursuing higher education is the intensifying student debt burden of postsecondary education. On average, Black students collect more student debt than white students while Latino students have debt that is higher than both Black and white students.[xvi] Scholars have cited increased financial hindrance as a critical contributor to reduced college completion among students, generally, claiming that this leads students to work more and take fewer classes.[xvii] Black students were also more likely to report that they wished they had borrowed less to fund their postsecondary education, that they changed their career plans because of their loans, or that their loan payments were burdensome.[xviii] Upon graduation, students feel compelled to pay back loan companies quickly to the point where they need to find a good-paying career path. Students of color who have high debt from their postsecondary education are much less likely to consider a career path in teaching or similarly low-paying fields.[xix]

Lack of adequate preparation leads to teachers of color leaving the workforce. 

Research shows that one in four teachers of color had entered the teaching profession through an alternative certification route (a trend that has increased over the past several years).[xx] Through this alternative certification route, teachers of color typically complete less coursework and student teaching, if any, compared to teachers in traditional certification programs. In 2012, teachers of color in their first year of teaching were three-and-a-half times more likely to have no student teaching experience than all other first-year teachers (28.2 percent versus 7.9 percent).[xxi] That teachers of color enter the teacher workforce with little preparation makes them two to three times more likely to leave their schools than those who had comprehensive preparation.[xxii] This disparity perpetuates a revolving door for teachers of color and is one of the reasons why they are underrepresented in schools today.

Challenging teaching conditions and unsupportive leadership increase the likelihood for teachers of color to leave the profession.

Economic conditions make it difficult for teachers in general to stay in the teacher workforce. Low salaries, extra responsibilities without compensation, and working in under-resourced school districts are particularly common challenges for  teachers of color. Many teachers of color work in a system of schools that serve the most students of color; these schools are often in high-poverty, urban communities.[xxiii] Teachers of color may also experience pressure to take on additional responsibilities because of their perceived knowledge of the needs of students of color in the school.[xxiv] These accumulating pressures sometimes discourage teachers of color from continuing their teaching careers.

Only a third of all teacher departures are due to retirement, while the other two-thirds are for consequential reasons ranging from life events to challenging working conditions.[xxv] For teachers of color, specifically, a recent study found that turnover was strongly associated with a lack of classroom autonomy and school influence.[xxvi] Conditions in the teaching workforce are also highly influenced by the school administration. Poor leadership, including a lack of support and professional learning opportunities, results in work environments that deter teachers of color from staying.[xxvii]

Programs and Practices to Support Teachers of Color

A key to retaining teachers of color is through supportive mentoring partnerships.

Coaching and mentorship for teachers of color allows for teachers to grow and feel supported.

Coaching and mentorship for teachers of color allows for teachers to grow and feel supported. This, in turn, leads to better support and quality education for students, especially students of color.[xxviii] Culturally based knowledge strongly informs mentoring relationships; mentors who understand and model how race and culture inform professional development can more effectively serve teachers of color.[xxix] Other strategies for effective support and mentoring include building relationships, providing targeted training, leading professional communities, and establishing networks of support. Initiatives—such as the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Montclair State University Teacher Education Advocacy Center—demonstrate how providing support to teacher preparation candidates, including academic coaching, mentoring and advising, and peer support, can lead to better teacher retention rates.[xxx] Furthermore, teachers of color can benefit from mentoring relationships with peers who are from similar backgrounds and foster conversations that address issues of race and racism.[xxxi]

School districts must support, recruit, and retain teachers of color to strengthen student achievement. 

Many initiatives have launched over the past decade to motivate individuals of color to become teachers, some reaching students as early as high school. For example, Pathways2Teaching is a program developed in Colorado that focuses on increasing teacher diversity among high school students in low-performing schools that emphasize the role of teachers in advancing social justice. Pathways2Teaching allows students of color to earn college credits by engaging in weekly field experiences building elementary students’ literacy skills, and receive support through college courses and application processes. Another program that aims to increase diversity in the teaching field is the Diversity Pipeline Project, which provides financial and academic support for paraprofessionals of color in Oklahoma City Public Schools to earn their teaching certification. These innovative programs point to promising ways to recruit and retain teachers of color and offer a path to address inequitable conditions in the U.S. education system.


This Topic Page was prepared by Monique Belin in collaboration with Digital Promise. Mrs. Belin is an educator and Instructional Coach at Martin Elementary in Huntley School District 158. You can follow her on Twitter at @monique_belin

Citations

[i] “Pipeline and retention of teachers of color: Systems and structures impeding growth and sustainability in the United States.” Digital Promise, 16 Apr. 2020, https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Teacher-of-Color-Lit-Rev-Rpt_FINAL.pdf
[ii] National Center for Education Statistics, “Characteristics of public school teachers 2017-2018,” May 2020. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_clr.asp
[iii] “Pipeline and retention of teachers of color: Systems and structures impeding growth and sustainability in the United States.” Digital Promise, 16 Apr. 2020, https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Teacher-of-Color-Lit-Rev-Rpt_FINAL.pdf
[iv] Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Diversifying_Teaching_Profession_REPORT_0.pdf
[v] Cherng, H.-Y. S., & Halpin, P. F. (2016). The Importance of Minority Teachers: Student Perceptions of Minority Versus White Teachers. Educational Researcher, 45(7), 407–420. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X16671718
[vi] Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Diversifying_Teaching_Profession_REPORT_0.pdf
[vii] Fairlie, R.W., Hoffmann, F., & Oreopoulos, P. (2014). A community college instructor like me: Race and ethnicity interactions in the classroom. American Economic Review, 104(8): 2567-91.
[viii] Whatley, J. K. (2018). Implicit bias as a contributing factor to disproportionality of African Americans in special education: The promise of a bias literacy intervention (Doctoral dissertation, Mercer University).
[ix] Dixon, R.D., Griffin, A.R., & Teoh, M.B. (2019). “If you listen, we will stay: Why teachers of color leave and how to disrupt teacher turnover.”, The Education Trust & Teach Plus, Washington DC.
[x] Warikoo, N. (2004). Race and the teacher-student relationship: Interpersonal connections between West Indian students and their teachers in a New York City high school. Race Ethnicity and Education 7(2):135–147.
[xi] “Pipeline and retention of teachers of color: Systems and structures impeding growth and sustainability in the United States.” Digital Promise, 16 Apr. 2020, https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Teacher-of-Color-Lit-Rev-Rpt_FINAL.pdf
[xii] Partee, Glenda L. Retaining teachers of color in our public schools: A critical need for action. Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse, 2014. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED561078.pdf
[xiii] Hargrove, L., Godin, D., & Dodd, B. (2008). College outcomes comparisons by AP and non-AP high school experiences. New York: The College Board.
[xiv] Gershenson, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect
of student–teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics ofEducation Review, 52, 209-224.

[xv] Kohli, R., Pizarro, M., & Nevárez, A. (2017). The “new racism” of K–12 schools: Centering critical research on racism. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 182–202. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X16686949
[xvi] Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). Diversifying the field: Barriers to recruiting and retaining
teachers of color and how to overcome them. Literature Review. Equity Assistance Center Region II, Intercultural Development Research Association.https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED582730.pdf
[xvii] Santos, J.L., & Haycock, K. (2016). Fixing America’s college attainment problems: It’s about more than affordability. Oakland, Calif.: The Education Trust. https://edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/FixingAmericasCollegeAttainmentProblem_EdTrust.pdf
[xviii] Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). Diversifying the field: Barriers to recruiting and retaining
teachers of color and how to overcome them. Literature Review. Equity Assistance Center Region II, Intercultural Development Research Association.https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED582730.pdf
[xix] “Pipeline and retention of teachers of color: Systems and structures impeding growth and sustainability in the United States.” Digital Promise, 16 Apr. 2020, https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Teacher-of-Color-Lit-Rev-Rpt_FINAL.pdf
[xx] Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & May, H. (2012). Retaining teachers: How preparation matters. Educational Leadership, 30-34.
[xxi] U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Enrollment, by state, by gender and race/ethnicity, Higher Education Act Title II State Report Card System.  https://title2.ed.gov/Public/DataTools/Tables.aspx
[xxii] Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & May, H. (2012). Retaining teachers: How preparation matters. Educational Leadership, 30-34.
[xxiii] Partee, Glenda L. Retaining teachers of color in our public schools: A critical need for action. Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse, 2014. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED561078.pdf
[xxiv] Partee, Glenda L. Retaining teachers of color in our public schools: A critical need for action. Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse, 2014. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED561078.pdf
[xxv] Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in
teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S. Palo Alto, Calif.: Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/A_Coming_Crisis_in_Teaching_REPORT.pdf
[xxvi] Ingersoll, R., & May, H. (2016). Minority teacher recruitment, employment, and retention: 1987 to 2013 (research brief). Palo Alto, Calif.: Learning Policy Institute.
[xxvii] Dixon, R.D., Griffin, A.R., & Teoh, M.B. (2019). “If you listen, we will stay: Why teachers of color leave and how to disrupt teacher turnover.”, The Education Trust & Teach Plus, Washington DC.
[xxviii] Partee, Glenda L. Retaining teachers of color in our public schools: A critical need for action. Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse, 2014. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED561078.pdf
[xxix] Dingus, J. E. (2008). “I’m learning the trade”: Mentoring networks of Black women teachers. Urban Education, 43(3), 361–377.
[xxx] Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Diversifying_Teaching_Profession_REPORT_0.pdf
[xxxi] Ginsburg A., & Budd E. (2017). Mentoring new teachers of color: Building new relationships among aspiring teachers and historically black colleges and universities. Research Brief. Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. https://cmsi.gse.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/Mentoring%20Teachers%20of%20Color%20.pdf

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