Cover: Conditions That Teachers of Color Perceive as Contributing to a Sense of Belonging at School

Conditions That Teachers of Color Perceive as Contributing to a Sense of Belonging at School

Findings from the 2022 Learn Together Survey

Published Aug 15, 2023

by Allyson D. Gittens, Karen Christianson, Elizabeth D. Steiner

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Research Question

  1. What conditions do teachers of color perceive as cultivating a sense of belonging for them at their schools?

Using responses from the American Teacher Panel 2022 Learn Together Survey, the authors examine conditions that teachers of color described as cultivating a sense of belonging in their schools. These conditions included school climate, the demographic composition of schools, relationships with fellow teachers, and efforts to educate the school community about race and culture. The authors distinguish between student-facing practices (which included celebrating and recognizing race and culture through such events as observing cultural history months), staff-focused practices (which included events such as equity committees, trainings focused on issues of diversity, and affinity groups), and schoolwide practices (such as a focus on inclusion or encouragement of teachers of color to take on leadership positions).

Three recommendations for school leaders to implement in their schools to cultivate a sense of belonging for teachers of color arise from the authors' analysis: (1) Consider student and staff demographics in schoolwide planning, (2) establish groups that support teacher diversity, and (3) foster strong, positive relationships among staff.

Key Findings

  • A majority of teachers of color, when asked how their school cultivates a sense of belonging for them, described efforts to recognize and celebrate race or educate the school community about race and culture.
  • Half of teachers of color mentioned that school climate (e.g., feelings of inclusivity, having a voice) and common school practices (e.g., social gatherings) fostered a sense of belonging.
  • Teacher and school characteristics, such as a teacher's race and school demographic composition, made a difference in how teachers of color perceived the cultivation of a sense of belonging in their schools.
  • Teachers of color who indicated that they had strong positive relationships with fellow teachers tended to highlight common school practices, such as social gatherings and collaboration time, as factors that created a sense of belonging in their schools. Teachers of color without strong positive relationships tended to describe student-focused efforts.

Recommendations

  • Consider student and staff demographics in schoolwide planning. For many teachers of color in schools in which a majority of staff were people of color, staff demographics inherently cultivated a sense of belonging.
  • Establish groups that support teacher diversity. Research indicates that school leaders can support teacher diversity through thoughtfully-implemented support networks or equity teams.
  • Foster strong, positive relationships among staff. Teachers who have strong positive relationships with other teachers might more readily engage in social activities and feel as though their schools are cultivating a sense of belonging because of the connections that they have with their colleagues.

Research conducted by

This report is based on research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted 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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