3 District-Level Strategies to Diversify Your Teaching Personnel

Sixty years have passed since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, yet diversity, or lack thereof, remains a relevant issue in today’s classrooms.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that a full “majority minority” shift will occur by 2042. These rapid changes in the demographic composition of the U.S. population, coupled with the relatively stagnant composition of the nation’s teaching workforce, have created a sizable minority teacher deficit across the nation. This May, the Center for American Progress reported that the divide between teachers and students of color continues to grow year over year, now at a deficit of approximately 25%. Put another way – teachers of color represent a mere 18% of the education workforce, while minority students comprise nearly half of the nation’s public school population.

Schools will likely continue to see the proportion of teachers of color fail to adequately represent the racial diversity of the overall student body. This crisis, dubbed the “minority teacher deficit,” could have vast implications on student achievement, as evidence suggests that teacher diversity has a positive impact on improved academic outcomes for students of all races.

In response to this growing issue, schools and districts are turning to research as they identify, evaluate, and implement initiatives aimed to bridge the demographic divide between teachers and students. By exploring key issues surrounding the diversification of the U.S. teaching force, Hanover Research identified three proven strategies to help districts recruit and retain diverse personnel (complete the form below to access the full report).

1)  Recruit Early

Much of the minority teacher shortage can be traced to an inadequate supply chain. Minority groups in the United States are more likely to lack access to high-quality K-12 education and, subsequently, are less likely to satisfy the higher education requisite for entry into the teaching force. To remove these barriers to the profession, districts should explore early prospective teacher identification programs to encourage, foster, and support students who have expressed interest in teaching.

South Carolina applies this teacher pathway through the state-wide High School Teacher Cadet Program, an effective early introduction to the teaching profession for many of the state’s minority students. This program has demonstrated success in directing a diverse demographic group of young students, approximately 4,000 annually, toward careers in South Carolina’s public school system.

2) Build Partnerships with Higher Education Institutions

The successful recruitment of minority teachers also requires districts to elevate their presence at regional, minority-serving institutions.  Historically black colleges and universities, for example, accounted for nearly half of all education degrees and teaching certificates awarded to minority students in 2004, and continue to produce a large proportion of the nation’s teachers of color. By forming partnerships with local institutions, schools have the opportunity to develop relationships with teaching candidates early in their careers. Further, formal partnerships between districts and higher education institutions allow for the dynamic exchange of faculty, personnel, and students – creating a direct link between recent minority graduates and the district.

In partnership, Des Moines Public Schools, Drake University, and Des Moines Area Community College developed the 3D Coalition – a program aimed to “identify aspiring minority teachers and guide them through the postsecondary education needed to teach in Des Moines.” The coalition fulfills several functions important to recruiting and retaining minority teaching personnel, including: 1) identifying prospective teachers from within the ranks of partner schools, 2) providing financial support at partner institutions to complete teacher licensure programs, and 3) guaranteeing employment in a local school upon graduation.

In 2013, the 3D Coalition identified a total of 25 prospective teacher recruits, three of which were already enrolled in educational programming and 21 of which are scheduled to begin their postsecondary education in 2014.

3) Consider your District’s Culture and Climate

While targeted recruitment initiatives prove successful in bringing minority teachers into the classroom, schools may be losing teachers to migration and attrition at nearly the same rate – often making minority teacher turnover high enough to negate recruitment efforts. Districts that foster and develop successful teaching environments can create a teaching climate that is more welcoming to educators from diverse backgrounds and, as such, improve retention. In general, teachers report higher job satisfaction and schools see lower attrition rates when teachers have access to peer education mentoring and cooperative principal, administrative, and faculty leadership structures.

California’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program cultivates a strong district culture and climate from the onset by focusing on teachers’ first two years in the workforce. The program has proven results in raising the two-year teacher retention rate to over 85% through strategies that can be adapted to support minority teachers, specifically.

Applying these research strategies alone to recruit and retain diverse teaching cohorts may not solve the diversity deficit across the K-12 education landscape. However, the more proactively districts approach teacher recruitment and retention plans to diversify their personnel, the closer they will get to shrinking education’s minority gap.

If you would like a copy of Hanover Research’s full report Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Personnel, complete the form below

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