Teachers of color exit the profession at a staggering rate of approximately 50% within the first three years.
“We must address the factors that contribute to their decisions to move schools or leave teaching.”
“You’ll know if you belong!” –Odell’s Slogan, Baltimore, MD
The best-developed recruitment plan will fail if sustained retention is not a priority. Nationally, Educators of Color leave the profession at a staggering rate. According to a report written by Desiree Carver-Thomas (2018) for the Learning Policy Institute titled Diversifying the Teaching Profession: How to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color, states “teachers of color move schools or leave the profession at a higher annual rate than do White teachers.” The report goes on further to describe the cyclical nature of this problem.
Teachers of color are often the last hired, giving them the least tenured-seniority. Teachers with lower seniority are more likely to work in low-income or and disadvantaged schools. When these schools close or there are staffing reductions, educators of color are the first to be let go. This creates transience and adds to for students with the greatest need.
Educators of color have experienced being placed in school communities where non-white stakeholders (i.e. students, staff, and caregivers) are plagued by issues rooted in systemic racism. This is compounded by biased and discriminatory practices which result in inequitable funding, food insecurities, limited fair housing options, insufficient healthcare, inadequate school resources, and increased violence, adding trauma. Working in higher stress environments places added stressors and causes educators of color to experience burn-out at higher rates and exit the profession (Education Trust, 2016).
Other studies attribute low retention rates to the extra responsibility and burden that is placed on educators of color, described as the “invisible tax” by John B, King Jr., CEO of the Education Trust. Educators of color are expected to act as disciplinarians, work with the lower performing students, navigate, protect, and combat stereotypes, bias, and racism for their students, in addition to, fulfilling the normal responsibilities of their job function.
The Education Trust and Teach Plus published a report titled If you Listen We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover where they conducted focus groups and case studies on educators of color in schools and districts with an elevated focus on recruitment and retention. Racism, bias, and stereotypes in the school environment, the absence of belonging to the school community, and feelings of invisibility and isolation accounted for attrition for educators of color according to the report (Dixon, Griffin, Teoh, 2019). For a more in-depth understanding visit the study at https://edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/If-You-Listen-We-Will-Stay-Why-Teachers-of-Color-Leave-and-How-to-Disrupt-Teacher-Turnover-September-2019.pdf
“Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”
–-Kareem Abdul Jabbar
5 consistent patterns emerged from the focus groups.
Top 5 Reasons Educators of Color Leave the Profession
“Antagonistic” work environment creating an absence of feeling seen, heard, valued, safe, and accepted in the school environment.
Failure to compensate educators of color equitably for the “invisible tax” the bear and the valued asset of cultural competence they bring to the profession due to the diversity of their culture, histories, and identities.
Lack of autonomy and agency to use their cultural context to improve the learning experiences of students.
Subpar working conditions, and lack of opportunity for professional learning targeting the needs of educators of color and educators serving in challenging environments.
Psychological and financial burnout
Bearing the high cost of being a teacher of color, which takes a toll on them financially and psychologically.
How do we support educators of color?
“Educators of Color bring a lived experience to the profession, to their students, to their parents and communities that no one else can. Educators of color know the importance of “teaching their students to know their racial identity and their history and how that translates to contributing and being a part of their community and having a purpose within that community, all with the broader goal of achieving social justice.”
– Njemele Tamala Anderson, Educator
Recommendations for Retention
Provide incentives and scholarships to include diverse candidates
Fund, reimburse, and prioritize loan forgiveness to remove historical financial barriers
Build pathways for professional growth and development to increase advancement opportunities
Foster relationships with Delaware State Education Association to design a continuum of professional learning to increase cultural competency, creating a memorandum of understanding to supplement professional learning outlined in Local Education Agency collective bargaining agreement
Establish measurable retention goals informed by data, and progress monitor to ensure goals are achieved
Strengthen existing onboarding, teacher induction, and mentoring programs to address the specific needs and concerns of diverse educators
Prioritize funding to support retention incentives for diverse candidates to retain diverse educators
Increase opportunities for growth and development for diverse educators to progress through the educator pipeline
Deliver supports for diverse educators in cohort groups to decrease isolation in the workplace and increase networking and collaboration in ongoing professional learning
Provide ongoing professional learning to all educators to foster welcoming culturally responsive environments
Conduct periodic equity audits to inform explicit strategies to create a sense of belonging in the workforce
Engage in on-going collaborations to ensure community voice is heard, honored, and valued
Communicate the Diversify the Delaware Educator Workforce Initiative to the community
Advocate for policies in alignment with potential and existing pipelines for diverse educators
Education Preparation Programs
Support cohorts of diverse alumnae educators beyond graduation and program completion
Update course and program requirements to reflect culturally responsive pedagogy and social justice standards
Maintain a diverse community of in-service educators to support diverse pre-service
Provide wrap-around strategies to support candidates throughout and following preparation programs
Offer flexible programming and scheduling options to support program completion
Partner with local school districts and organizations to increase resources to support the recruitment and retention for diverse educators
Focus on incentives and opportunities to aid with tuition reimbursement, housing, and transportation
Maximize partnerships to increase retention incentives
Examine, change, and eliminate policies that create barriers to diverse candidates from remaining in the Delaware educator workforce
Implement progressive legislation to increase educators of color, linguistically diverse educators, and male educators in the Delaware workforce
The Education Trust and Teach Plus published a report. If you Listen We Will Stay:
Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover where they conducted focus groups and case studies on educators of color in schools and districts with an elevated focus on recruitment and retention. Racism, bias, and stereotypes in the school environment, the absence of belonging to the school community, and feelings of invisibility and isolation accounted for attrition for educators of color according to the report (Dixon, Griffin, Teoh, 2019). For a more in-depth understanding visit the study at