By: Rann Miller
Making it a goal of your district to hire more teachers of color is a great thing. But sometimes more important than hiring teachers of color is retaining them. However, teacher of color have a higher rate of teacher turnover than white teachers.
According to a Teach Plus and Education Trust report, teachers of color leave the classroom for a number of reasons, including the emotional and psychological toll of being an educator of color in a white institutional space, the lack of autonomy to tailor their teaching to students of color, and the lack of respect for their content knowledge.
The recommendations of the report are good, yet they may take a while to imbed within the fabric of the districts that adopt them. Schools should be culturally affirming, supportive of teachers of color, and where teachers of color are esteemed for the intellectual work they do and the fruit of that work.
But those things, unfortunately, take more time than they should. So what immediate things can district and school leaders do to retain teachers of color—as they imbed those recommendations that’ll take a little more time?
- Negotiate or create districtwide policy to keep teachers of color. An example is what the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) recently did. They came to an agreement with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers to layoff white educators ahead of their less-senior minority colleagues, arguing that it is a necessary measure to remedy “the effects of past discrimination.” MPS will increase its percentage of teachers of color with every one they protect during a layoff, while not compromising the priority on academic achievement—specifically concerning students of color.
- Display a commitment to content/instructional integrity: don’t succumb to anti-CRT pressure. Around the country, teachers are quitting due to anti-CRT backlash. This is especially true for Black teachers and administrators. Unfortunately, many heavily leaning conservative politicians and parents are against teaching history accurately as well as highlighting notable people of color—and the racism associated with their stories. Teachers of color (and white teachers) need to know that their principals and district leaders will stand behind them for teaching and exposing students to uncomfortable truths to move the country forward.
- Take the lead on the intellectual work of educating white teachers about race. Part of what former Education Secretary called the invisible tax was teachers of color (namely Black teachers) bearing the responsibility of teaching their white colleagues about systemic racism, white supremacy and white privilege. It’s taxing for teachers of color to do that. District leaders must shift the burden onto themselves and hire consultants who can provide professional development and trainings on those matters for white educators. Not 1 all day training, but rather a sustained effort during multiple years as part of an anti-racist strategic plan to create a culture of antiracism, where all can benefit.