Cover: Prioritizing Strategies to Racially Diversify the K–12 Teacher Workforce

Prioritizing Strategies to Racially Diversify the K–12 Teacher Workforce

Findings from the State of the American Teacher and State of the American Principal Surveys

Published Sep 20, 2022

by Elizabeth D. Steiner, Lucas Greer, Lisa Berdie, Heather L. Schwartz, Ashley Woo, Sy Doan, Rebecca Ann Lawrence, Rebecca L. Wolfe, Allyson D. Gittens

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Research Question

  1. What policies and practices do teachers and education policymakers believe could be most effective for recruiting, hiring, and retaining teachers of color?

All students—particularly students of color—benefit academically and socially from having teachers who are people of color. However, people of color face systemic barriers to becoming and remaining teachers at multiple points throughout their careers. For example, people of color are more likely than their White peers to incur student debt, might not have access to teacher role models who share their lived experiences, experience bias during the hiring process, and are more likely to work in challenging environments once they become teachers.

This report presents selected findings from the 2022 State of the American Teacher survey related to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the teacher workforce. The authors surveyed and interviewed teachers and convened a panel of education policymakers to gain deeper insight into the policies and practices that could be most effective for recruiting, hiring, and retaining teachers of color.

The teacher voices presented in this report provide a source of evidence that teacher preparation providers, education leaders, and policymakers could use to identify and prioritize a set of practices to increase workforce diversity in their localities.

Key Findings

  • Teachers of color who were surveyed identified increased pay and loan forgiveness as their top approaches to recruit and retain more teachers of color.
  • The researchers, policymakers, and practitioners who participated in a panel discussion (i.e., panelists) also endorsed increased pay and loan forgiveness as promising strategies to recruit and retain more teachers of color, in addition to grow-your-own programs.
  • No panelists and very few teachers supported ending or reducing certification requirements or eliminating preparation program admission standards to recruit teachers of color.
  • Principals of color often rely on social networks to recruit teachers of color.
  • Panelists endorsed training—whether for school hiring teams about anti-racist hiring practices or for principals about supporting new teachers of color—as an effective hiring practice at higher rates than teachers of color did.
  • Teachers of color indicated that working with other staff of color and nurturing positive collegial relationships could boost retention.

Recommendations

  • Lower the cost of becoming and being a teacher. State policymakers could ensure loan forgiveness and scholarship programs offer enough financial relief to be attractive. District leaders could consider a variety of compensation policies—such as raising salaries, retention bonuses, or incentives to work in high-need schools or hard-to-fill positions. Teacher preparation programs could provide scholarships, stipends, or other forms of debt-free financial support to their attendees if they do not already do so.
  • Increase the diversity of the teacher applicant pool. State policymakers could consider establishing grow-your-own programs. District leaders could focus on training district and school staff to use hiring practices that mitigate racial bias and thoughtfully and intentionally include staff who identify as people of color as active participants in the hiring process. Teacher preparation programs can focus on increasing the racial and ethnic diversity within their student bodies and faculty and adjust their curricula to intentionally consider and address the needs of teachers of color in the curriculum.
  • Focus on building positive collegial relationships and inclusive school environments. State policymakers could implement principal leadership standards that focus on developing positive collegial relationships and inclusive school environments. District leaders could continue to provide in-service training for principals and teachers with concrete strategies to create inclusive school environments and incentivize adoption of those strategies. Administrator and teacher preparation programs should continue to focus on the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive school environment as a recruitment, hiring, and retention strategy.

Research conducted by

The State of the American Teacher survey was funded by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and unrestricted gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The teacher interviews were funded by the National Education Association and unrestricted gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The panel discussion was funded by unrestricted gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The State of the American Principal survey was funded by The Wallace Foundation. This study was undertaken by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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