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Racial Diversity in the Teacher Workforce

Racial Diversity in the Teacher Workforce(Episode # 102)

January 2019 | 32 minutes, 4 seconds
Woman teaching

There is a national problem of underrepresentation in education. Quite often, the teachers tasked with educating the next generation don’t look nor represent the students in their classrooms. Diversity isn’t a buzz word nor a pipe dream: it’s a necessity for the next generation of Americans to be adequately educated. From active targeted recruiting to various pipeline programs, increasing the number of ethnically and linguistically diverse educators is priority #1 for school districts.

Karmen Rouland, CEE’s Associate Director of Technical Assistance & Training, addresses issues and barriers faced in recruiting and retaining teachers of color. Kyair Butts, Ceronne Daly & Jacqueline Greer provide their insight and how they’ve worked to remove those barriers.


Karmen Rouland
Associate Director of Technical Assistance and Training here at the Center for Education Equity at MAEC

Kyair Butts
A 6th-grade literacy teacher in Baltimore Public Schools.

Ceronne Daly
Managing Director of Recruitment, Cultivation, and Diversity Programs for Boston Public Schools

Jacqueline Greer
Executive Director of the District of Columbia Urban Teacher Fellows

Show Notes:
  • Partnership with other organization is another avenue to overcome the issues with retention and recruitment for teachers of color.
  • Ceronne Daly discusses  teacher development and identify pipeline programs to recruit teachers of color into the Boston Public School System.
  • Jacqueline Greer talks about the Urban Teachers program (located in Baltimore, DC, and Dallas/ Fort Worth) which recruit, support, train, and coach teachers of colors. The program’s retention strategies focuses on race and gender centered on creating communities and teacher mentor-ship opportunities.
  • Kyair Butts, discusses what brought him into teaching, how he was recruited, and what makes him stay in the classroom.

Full Transcript:

Intro: Today, this is episode 102 of the Equitable Podcast, The Center for Education Equity's podcast where we bring equity to the table. 

Karmen Rouland: Today, as part of the Exploring Equity Issues series we are talking about the recruitment and retention of teachers of color, also known as the teacher diversity pipeline. I am Karmen Rouland, Associate Director of Technical Assistance ...

Intro: Today, this is episode 102 of the Equitable Podcast, The Center for Education Equity's podcast where we bring equity to the table. 

Karmen Rouland: Today, as part of the Exploring Equity Issues series we are talking about the recruitment and retention of teachers of color, also known as the teacher diversity pipeline. I am Karmen Rouland, Associate Director of Technical Assistance and Training here at The Center for Education Equity at MAEC and I am joined by three guests today who can help us talk about this issue. I am going to have Ceronne introduce yourself and then Ceronne, please ask the next person to introduce themselves. 

Ceronne Daly: Sure, thank you. My name is Ceronne Daly and I am the Managing Director of Recruitment, Cultivation and Diversity Programs in Boston Public schools. Kyair. 

Kyair Butts: Hey, everybody, my name is Kyair Butts and I teach sixth grade literacy within Baltimore City Public Schools. Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Greer: Hi, I am Jacqueline Greer, I am the Executive Director of Urban Teachers, a teacher training program in the District of Columbia. I think that is all of us, Karmen. 

Karmen: Great. Thank you everyone for joining us today to discuss this important topic. So, let us jump in, why don't we? According to a recent report from the Learning Policy Institute and also a recent book from Mary Dilworth and also organizations such as the American Institutes for Research, there is a lot of focus on the teacher diversity pipeline, this issue and so, what we know is that teachers of color represent approximately 20% of teachers in the US while students of color represent about 50% of the student population.

We know that that is an issue that we need to do something about, we need to try and fill in those gaps of diversity for equity and so, a quote from Mary Dilworth that I want to read to spark our conversation today is as follows; so, she put in her book that is titled Millennial Teachers of Color-- 

"While education excellence and equity for all students are heralded in virtually every education policy program, the tangible outcomes are insufficient and do not offer these students the necessary tools for a good quality of life as productive adults. Teachers are the linchpin of equality education and a racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse teaching and learning community enhances and leverages student achievement, particularly for the under-served and underachieving pre-K through 12 student population."

So, she goes on to say that efforts to recruit, groom and retain teachers of color are out of date and woefully inadequate and so, on today's podcast we want to explore this issue and discuss your experience with this issue. I would like to discuss the challenges that you have faced and that you have seen in the field when attempting to work on this issue and then things that you have been able to do to overcome removing the barriers to retaining and recruiting teachers of color. 

So, I am going to start with Ceronne, if you could tell us about your current role with Boston Public Schools, how did you end up in this position and just tell us some characteristics of Boston Public Schools and what are your goals as it relates to the recruitment and retention of teachers?

Ceronne: Great, thank you. So, I had said at the very beginning and I introduced myself as the Managing Director for Recruitment Cultivation and Diversity Programs in Boston Public Schools and that is a mouthful but it's intentional. About two years ago, our Office of Human Capital made a strategic decision to combine our talent acquisition, our recruitment team with our talent development group, our new teacher induction programming and our own home-grown teacher pipeline programs. It was intended to really put together both the development work and our retention work for our educators of color and we found it really helps us to better support candidates employees and employees from recruitment all the way through the BPS careers. 

Before I dive more into my role I thought it would be important for you to understand the challenges and opportunities facing us in Boston. We have 56,000 students, 125 schools, 4,400 teachers and out students have long been more diverse than national averages. 85% of our students identify as black, Latinx or Asian. They come from 140 countries and speak 80 different languages and this is one of the things that we value and we definitely have thought about using the diversity of our students to inform and support our own pipeline.

But given the opportunity we have with such a large, diverse student population, we also need to be thinking about how educators of color support our students and our district, like many others in the nation, our educators of color remain significantly under-represented relative to the students they serve.

I want to give you a little set of our numbers here; Our black students, students who self-identify as black, 34% of our students are black and 21% of our teachers are. Our Latinx students are 42% as compared to our 11% of our Latinx teachers. Our Asian teachers are 6% and our Asian students are 9%. 

I just think what I would want to share is we sit in a context, both nationally and particularly locally, that has forced us to think differently about our recruitment and cultivation strategy. As many of you know that the recent research says that 85% of teachers choose to teach within 40 miles of their home and we sit in a state where one in 10 graduates from schools of educations and teachers of color and in a national context where teachers of color are retiring at faster than are entering the profession.

I fear these data points because these data points are the drivers that have made us think differently about the initiatives we use in Boston and the last point that has always struck me an is actually a lot of my North Star focus is we are in a state where 7% of the educators are teachers of color and I often say that what that means is as a district we need to really pay attention to the reasons why individuals, educators of color, want to work for Boston Public Schools, because they have a lot of opportunities literally five, 10, 15 miles right outside of the city. 

We only employ 6% of the total educators in the state, however, BPS has 49% of all the black educators in the state, 25% of the Asian educators and 25% of the Latinx educators in the state and many people will say when you look at our overall workforce diversity, 38% are educators of color, but given the numbers of our students and the need for us to focus on increasing our diversity, it was not enough for us to have our workforce diversity at 38% because the challenges that are providing and needed by our students require that we continue to increase our diversity.

Karmen: Thank you for that. So, what are some of the initiatives or what is one initiative that you all have taken on in order to recruit? Let us talk about recruitment because I think the retention issue, we can come back to that as well. But for recruitment, what is one initiative that you all have put in place to tackle the recruitment issue? 

Ceronne: Yes. Well, as I stated before, we sit within a state where we are the largest district and the most diverse district. We also have an incredibly diverse student population and subsequently community population. So, one of our major strategies is our home-grown pipeline teacher development programs and paying attention to where our most diverse students and diverse populations are. 

We have identified strategies to create pipeline programs to attract community members into Boston Public Schools to begin their professional journey as prepared professionals, we have programming that allows individuals to-- with their bachelor’s degrees-- to join BPS through one of our pipeline programs that prepares them to be teachers, we also have a pipeline program that takes educators that have degrees who want to be dual certified in special education or in English as a second language. 

So, our strategy is focusing our attention on our own and what we have found with this model is it's a non-compete, so, what is great about this opportunity is that there are districts all over the country who can use similar things and similar pools to develop. What we have learned because our languages are so diverse and we have such a high need, that though we may not at this point have a large pool of Somalian-fluent teachers we are able to bring into BPS through our other pipelines and in other places educators in the classrooms and in the schools that can bring the diversity of language as we continue to develop our teachers. 

Karmen: Fabulous, and I know that when we did a COP, a Community of Practice, on this issue last year one point that was made by the participants is that districts and state education agencies cannot solve this issue by themselves, they have to work with other organizations and universities to try and figure out how to fix the pipeline and get more diverse teachers in that pipeline, so, the grow your own programs as you were just describing, obviously, is one and then Jacqueline, I want to turn to you so that you can talk about the Urban Teachers program and how your organization tries to combat this issue.

Jacqueline: Absolutely, thank you so much. Urban Teachers is a four-year teacher residency preparation program and for us I think we have gone through a few stages of understanding what diversity, equity and inclusion mean in our work. The portion of our students that we serve are between 80 and 90% students of color and as a teacher preparation program we have always strived to have at least 40 to 50% teachers of color in our pipeline.

So, we have been very active about recruiting teachers of color, supporting teachers of color, placing them together when possible and then coaching teachers of color, but I think we have learned over the past few years that getting people in the door is not enough, we have to think about the support and training along the way to teach students across difference. 

So, at Urban Teachers, when I started we would talk about diversity and equity in terms of the number of people we brought int he door but at this point in our work we are really working to do a deep dive into what it means to teach culturally relevant pedagogy, to work across a variety of different schools and neighborhoods and then to also really think about equity in our supports. 

Every teacher, even if they identify as the same race or gender, does not need the same support in classrooms, they might need something different and so, I think that we have really worked to take a strength-based approach to cultivating a diverse cohort but also working to make sure that our program is inclusive of a variety of different views and skill sets. 

So, for us, we have been very excited to do that work but I think at the same time our teacher, our schools and our CMOs and districts have asked us for more teachers of color who are ready to be effective, who have the skills to keep growing and who want to stay in this work in the long-term.

So, at Urban Teachers, with our residency, with our coaching, with our support and with our evolution in this work I think we have really worked to make sure that we are not seeing the same turnover that we have seen in the past, that teaching is a job that people can do and do well and be supported in doing and that teaching in an urban classroom, as long as you have the right set of skills, is very doable and you can see good, strong results. So, that is a little bit about us but overall, I think in terms of teacher preparation, it's really approaching it with the student in mind. 

Karmen: Yes, thank you for that, Jacqueline. What you are saying connects very well with what Ceronne said regarding the teachers of colors are being recruited and are coming but they are leaving the workforce and so, that equity, I am glad to hear you talk about the equity and supports, giving teachers what they need and we have research that shows that teachers of color stay in schools that are diverse and the schools that school offered in-service leadership development and where the teachers felt nurtured and that they were working in a collaborative learning environment where they could support the students and help students reach their goals.

So, that definitely fits with what you were saying, so, thank you for that and the work that Urban Teachers is doing. Can you tell us the regions or the states that Urban Teachers works in?

Jacqueline: Absolutely. So, we have been in Baltimore and the District of Columbia for almost 10 years, we will be welcoming our tenth cohort this year and then we have expanded to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2016 and so, our goal is to go very deep in the regions where we serve to really become a teacher training pipeline, a program that is very closely connected to our schools and school partners, top know the communities that we work in really well versus expanding quickly. 

So, those are our three sites as of right now and I think that we have actually seen a dip in the amount of teacher turnover present in all three of those districts and we have also shown that teachers can be effective with the right training, with great content knowledge in both general education and special education that is clinical and then with a coach who can help support you in the initial years of your teaching who is a master instructor, a clinical faculty member, very solid in this work, I think what we have shown is that if you bring us the will and the grit and skills, we can help you become an effective teacher. So, that has been our range so far and I am sure we will continue looking at other districts in the future.

Karmen: That is great. So, Kyair, let us bring you on into this conversation. I am anxious to hear about your experience, I understand that you were an Urban Teachers fellow and would love to hear about your path into teaching and what motivates you, what keeps you there and what do you see as the things that you need to support you and support the teaching of kids?

Kyair: Yes, those are all great questions and a really good point to sort of jump off, right? Like, why are teachers motivated? How do you keep young Latinx or black teachers in the classroom in front of our black and brown children and it's a really big issue to sort of wrestle with, right? 

In Baltimore City there is a working group, actually, for black teacher retention and I was fortunate enough to be one of two teachers on the panel, among other guests, that were invited too to kind of speak about this issue of teacher retention and teacher recruitment and it's pretty important, I think, as Jacqueline was saying, as we have sort of heard in the dialogue that getting folks is one thing but also keeping the bodies that are good for kids is another one that we also need to recognize and it's that staying; how and why do we get people to stay?

One really important aspect for me, and my training really was coming through Urban Teachers, there is a cultural competency that is sort of grown throughout your years within Urban Teachers because some of the graduate coursework that we end up taking, community immersions that we go on and the assignments that are being asked of us and just getting to know our students, the families of the schools that we teach in. 

So, I feel like every year that I have been in Urban Teachers or even out of Urban Teachers and sort of working with them and preparing other cohorts, what is really great to see is the growth of the organization and the importance of how we retain teachers, but also how we support black and brown teachers because this is trying work. You know, this is a field rather where black teachers can get labelled as classroom managers, so, it's how do we sort of rethink policy or attitudes?

On that very panel that I have mentioned I was sort of advocating to Baltimore City that we need to adopt an anti-racist policy so we can examine these sort of systems, the policies and the attitudes and sort of systemically take out what might be seen as racist in terms of the black and brown teachers and then to the students as well because roughly 80% of the students in Baltimore City are black and the city itself is about 63, 64% percent black or African American. 

So, it's a majority black city with majority black kids in the district and it's important to adopt these policies to reflect the fact that we do not want to do harm to our children long-term, so, an anti-racist policy is something that I am really advocating for and want to keep beating that drum. Which is to say that Urban Teachers is certainly doing that work, as Jacqueline had mentioned, and it's work that I am sort of proud of to have received by way of training but also proud of to sort of help work on in terms of what is going on in Baltimore.

One of the things that really drives me as far as passion is just my faith and it's not necessarily like a religious faith but I just have such a faith in people. One of my fondest stories to tell about teaching is; I do something every month with my students and I still do it even in my sixth year teaching now at Waverly is, it's called Books and Brunch. 

So, I will take my students who have done well academically but also have done well via their behavior and recommendations for other students. I will take them out, we will go get brunch somewhere in the city, we will go to that Maryland Book Bank, we will get a bunch of free books and just kind of hang out and have a great time. It's a good way to incentivize good behavior for the month but also to continue to build those relationships in the community and with families. 

My very first year teaching I invited six kids and I was so pumped, right? It's the first Books and Brunch, it's September and I had one student show up and not the six that I had planned on and I remember telling her, I was like, "Well, if you don’t wanna go I can always just drive you back home. I know your sister just walked you here and she left, I can just drop you off." 

The student said, "No, Mr. K, I wanna stay," and that taught me so much about myself and faith than I think I have ever leaned at any other point in my life that somehow this fourth grade student saw something in me and had a faith in me that I was good enough and worth being around that she wanted to stay and do Books and Brunch and that faith really keeps me here in this city. 

I have an unyielding faith for Baltimore City children, for their families and the good work that is really going on here and you know, President Obama would always talk about progress; he compared it to football, right? Sometimes it's two yards, sometimes you gain 15 yards and then you get sacked and you lose some yards, right? But you are still always moving forward and that is what I really value about what everyone is saying. 

That is a lot of work to be done in terms of recruitment but more importantly, the retention, but we are making progress and we have to do more and not sort of ever give up or let go of that faith. So, that is what really keeps me around. I have been fortunate to receive really good training from Urban Teachers and Baltimore City, the city certainly could benefit from revamping and beefing up some of the teacher development and maybe differentiating for folks that maybe are black and new to Baltimore.

You are still an other, right? That is me, I am from Iowa, you know, if you are in Baltimore and sort of home grown that there needs to be some sort of professional learning community or mentoring that goes on at a city level that is systemic so that teachers feel like they belong and I think that is the biggest reason why I stayed, I feel like I belong. This is as much my city now as it is somebody else's but I have also put in that time and that work. 

Karmen: Right. So, I appreciate you, thank you so much, Kyair, for what you are doing. I mean, that Books and Brunch, that sounds awesome and a great way to get to know families, get to know students on a personal level because we know that is also how learning takes place. So, I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about mentor teachers and what you are saying and I think we have all been speaking about this; the professional development that teachers receive and also being paired with a mentor teacher that can also provide that support.

I know that there is a couple of programs out there and initiatives, Ceronne, has your district tried using mentor teachers for the retention of teachers? 

Ceronne: Yes. Our retention strategies are both around gender and race and ethnicity, so, we have programming that is specifically focused on male educators of color, female educators of color and then all educators of color. In both states it speaks to Kyair's point around when you are new to a district, even if you are of similar backgrounds, you are still new and what we found is that the reason people stay, because teaching can be so isolating, is to create community. 

So, as a district we have convened monthly gatherings of all our educators of color in different communities in the city and at local restaurants and the convening is intended just for the purpose of building community. From those gatherings we were charged kind of by populous to think about doing a different type of convening or support for our male educators and we started that particular project, our male educators of color executive coaching.

It is intended to bring men from across the district together in cohort and for us to reach back into our retired male educators of color and have them re-join our community and be a sense of elders for these men who are in our district at all different levels. So, our strategy was and is that gender matters and creating spaces where men of color can convene across ethnic and racial groups but have the one common thing as gender and then for elders who have been in the same roles that these men hold and roles these men aspire to hold and provide them with professional development, career development and personal development. 

So, those strategies there have been things that we found and where we lean into identify ways in which we are creating spaces and communities for our educators for choose to stay in Boston. We also do mentoring for all of our new teachers but in particular, as we are talking for today about the focus on diverse educators, we have really been intentional about creating these small cohorts and communities.

Our men's program is looking to begin our third cohort and our women's program is in our third cohort, we have seem retention between 80 and 85% for both groups and for the men who are no longer in our district or the women who are no longer in our district I can actually tell you exactly where they are. In some cases we could have done better and in some cases the cohort, the community, the brotherhood or the sisterhood recommended for these individuals to, "Yes, definitely go and do that in New York City, that sounds like a great opportunity," or, "Definitely go back to school, that should be something you do."

So, as a district, we are hoping that people are seeing the district as a place that they can enter, they find a community and they get guidance and thought around how they want to develop within BPS. 

Karmen: Perfect. I mean, that is great and 80 to 85% retention, that is excellent, that is outstanding. Are there any kind of last thoughts that anyone wants to share before we end? 

Ceronne: I have one thing-- this is Ceronne-- that was an important frame for us a district and I want to frame it as a work in progress but it's also something; we started our work through a lens of our problem of practice and our problem of practice fairly boldly states that systemic forms a barrier to onboarding teachers of color at every phase of the process, from college enrollment to selection bias to passage rates in our standardized teacher certification tests. 

Our goal as a district is to counteract the impacts of racism by applying aggressive, innovative interventions at each and every stage.  So, we publicly state that and I often tell people to hold us accountable, so, that is why I share this as a bold statement put forward, but recognize in the statement requires a ton of work and that is a lot of what we are doing; trying to get better at and working hard towards both recruiting and retaining. 

Karmen: Thank you, Jacqueline?

Jacqueline: Yes, I think one of the things that I appreciated hearing both from Ceronne and Kyair was about how there is a need for accountability but I also think we do not necessarily have the answers, right? The solutions that we are looking for are not always going to be rooted in what we have done before and I think there is a need for bold leadership and bold voice and to really rethink the tools of the past in terms of building new tools. 

So, by that I mean we always will have to look at data but we really need to ask the teachers who are in our classrooms right now what it would take for them to stay. We need to elevate their voices; we need to hear from them. I mean, I was to Kyair talk about how he is now Baltimore and how do you make someone DC, or Dallas, or Boston, what does that look like and then how do you make sure that teachers have the agency to advocate for what they want? 

I think that is a lesson that we could all benefit from, just thinking from a different frame of leadership, that our leadership might not look top down in the future but it's a community gathering, right? Like, if we really put students in the center of our work, which we all do and I know we all do, how would we approach teachers differently, what structures would we break and who knows the answers? 

I think the people who often know are students and our teachers and I think continuing to elevate their voices will help us work to make sure that we still have diverse, equitable, excellent, high-quality education for our students. 

Karmen: You are absolutely right, where are the students, right? We have to hear from them. Kyair? 

Kyair: The bold moves that districts have to take, you know, really to sort of give some love to Baltimore City Public Schools, I had mentioned the working groups and I really appreciate that for the black teacher retention topic here in Baltimore City, BCPS is having working groups where the community members are invited. teachers are invited, experts in the field on teacher recruitment are invited and the CEO has been part of these conversations and I appreciate the leadership from our CEO being part of the conversations but also letting teachers and community members drive the conversations such that we understand what makes up the black teacher in Baltimore City?

You know, as Jacqueline was saying, what is that make up? Why does someone choose to sort of become Baltimore and how does that process work? A lot of these issues are being tackled within the working groups and I think that we have all said it, you know, there is no silver bullet, we have yet to find the dust to kind of sprinkle on the issue but the fact that districts are working toward this and recognize the import of it is a great starting point.

Especially when you think about the various studies that have been done that do show that students across the board, black, white, Latinx, Asian, do benefit from having a black or brown teacher in front of them and that is an important issue when we are talking about student achievement, student progress, especially I will say in the sort of climate that we are in right now, 2018, 2019, these are really big issues that it speaks more than just preparing students for our curriculum.

We are preparing students to enter a vastly changing culture of identity and I believe that this retention issue is certainly going to help students make sense of what I would call a very changing world right now and one that could be scary for black and brown children to enter into and I think it's all the more important for Baltimore City to continue the working groups and to again advance an anti-racist policy.

So, when I hear Jacqueline say that we need to do something bold I know that that phrase 'anti-racist' could kind of sound cringey to somebody if you do not quite know what the theory is or what it means, but I think that would be a bold move for Baltimore City while inviting and asking for more voice from the community. 

Karmen: Great. Thank you so much. I just want to say as we wrap up, thank you so much for your time, for joining us today, Ceronne, Jacqueline and Kyair, this has been eye-opening, it has been great to hear about the work that you all are doing. I know we only scratched the surface in the issue, we could probably talk about this all day but at least this is a start.

It's great that you shared some of the best practices and some of the things that you are seeing, the initiatives that you have going on, that they are working and that people are really listening and you are getting out there and you are developing teachers and supporting teachers in a way that helps them do the jobs they have to do so that all of our students are learning and our families are receiving the services that they need to receive. So, with that, I want to bring us to a close.

Outro: Thank you for listening, while CEE is funded by the US Department of Education, the contents of this podcast do not necessarily reflect their positions or policies and no referral or endorsements by the Department of Education should be inferred. 

[00:32:03][END OF AUDIO]


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