The research keeps stacking up: All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having teachers of color. Unfortunately, the data trends are not promising. The teacher workforce has become more diverse over time, but not enough to keep pace with the rapidly diversifying student body.
A survey by the RAND Corporation explores possible solutions, asking teachers (including a large sample of teachers of color) and a panel of experts (including NCTQ's former president, Kate Walsh) their thoughts on what would be the most effective strategies to recruit and retain more people of color into teaching at public schools.
The recommendations show some interesting results, including a few disconnects between the views of teachers of color compared with the policy changes happening in many states—and in some cases, with the views of the expert panel. While the report also shares results from all teachers, this blog post focuses primarily on the responses of teachers of color, as they're in the best position to speak to what matters most to them.
Under the category of recruitment policies and practices, the strategies most likely to be effective according to the 1,100 teachers of color who responded are:
- Expanding student loan forgiveness or service scholarships (58% of teachers of color, and even stronger support from experts at 79%),
- Expanding prep programs at Minority-Serving Institutions (35% of teachers of color), and
- Creating teacher residences (31% of teachers of color).
Far lower on the list was:
- The seemingly popular efforts to expand "grow your own programs" (advocated by only 9% of teachers of color, compared with 64% of experts), and
- Eliminating admissions standards for entry into teacher prep programs (only 2% of teachers of color thought this was a top strategy).
NCTQ was quite intrigued by respondents' views on certification requirements. In fact, teachers of color would far prefer an option to subsidize teacher licensure test fees (26% of teachers of color) than to end or reduce certification requirements (advocated by only 7% of teachers of color, yet a common strategy that states seem to be turning to now). There was also little support (only 11% of teachers of color) for replacing licensure exams with portfolio assessments.
Much of the conversation around teacher recruitment and retention focuses on paying teachers more, and this survey result validates that focus. The most popular strategies were:
- Increasing teacher salaries across the pay scale (72% of teachers of color identified this as a top pay-based strategy),
- Offering student loan forgiveness (60% of teachers of color), and
- Offering higher starting salaries (45% of teachers of color).
While they weren't the top choices, some changes to district hiring practices were popular non-pay based strategies, including:
- Starting the hiring process earlier (32% of teachers of color—aligning with research showing that this is a beneficial practice for districts), and
- Creating a race-blind applicant pre-screening (29% of teachers of color).
The most popular approach in this category, however, was to give teachers greater flexibility in moving across state lines through licensure reciprocity (51% of teachers of color).
Opinions about effective workplace policies and practices were more diffuse, with only one item listed as a top strategy by more than a quarter (28%) of teachers of color: Ensuring that new teachers of color who serve high-need students receive adequate support. This item had even more robust support from experts (64%) identifying it as a top strategy.
This top strategy was followed closely by:
- Providing more time for collaboration with other teachers (25% of teachers of color; this was the most popular strategy among white teachers),
- Increasing teachers' say in their schools' policy decisions (24%),
- Providing dedicated support staff and/or programs to address student behavior (24%), and
- Providing more training on effective classroom management strategies (23%).
While fascinating, this study does come with a few important limitations. First, teachers were asked about each area (e.g., effective workplace policies and practices) in isolation, and so it's not possible to determine which of these strategies garnered the most support across areas. For example, should districts and states focus more on hiring practices, or more on compensation?
Finally, the sample for this survey is, quite reasonably, current K-12 teachers. However, these are the teachers who chose to begin working in the classroom and chose to stay. Additionally, another key set of respondents for this survey would be people (and especially people of color) who considered going into teaching but ultimately did not do so, or those who were teachers but left the classroom. Understanding their perspectives would add even greater value to this new trove of insights into teachers' priorities.
While it cannot answer every question we may have, this study provides important and timely insights into which approaches teachers of color think will be most successful in building a more diverse teacher workforce.