A new guide offers researchers, policymakers, district and school leaders, and classroom teachers alike insights for engaging in evidence-based policies and other actions that can be taken to meet the urgent need to recruit and retain teachers of color.
The Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers, co-edited by education scholars Conra D. Gist and Travis J. Bristol, and published in late October by the American Educational Research Association, features new research affirming why more teachers of color are needed in K-12 schools, and, crucially, how to achieve this.
“It points to teacher development system changes that need to take place,” said Gist, an associate professor of teaching and teacher education in the College of Education at the University of Houston.
The book is organized into 11 domains of inquiry, breaking down each of the factors involved when implementing successful programs and policies for recruiting and retaining local educators of color. These domains include program design in teacher preparation and other training, the role of minority-serving institutions, human resource development and induction, mentorship, and more.
It’s designed to have multiple entry points for all readers, Gist said. For instance, classroom teachers can get ideas on mentorship and support programs, such as what factors to look for in such programs.
Rita Kohli, cofounder and co-director of the conference group Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, was among the contributing editors and writers. Her sections focused on professional development for and by teachers of color and Indigenous teachers.
One of her key takeaways for readers: that “professional development generally centers white teacher learning and often does not embody the knowledge, experiences, or needs of teachers of color,” she said.
“Thus teachers of color feel compelled to meet their own needs through critical professional development spaces that are more holistic, or affinity spaces.”
An evolving conversation
The conversation around the need for more teachers of color and how to best support them really started following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The decision launched a historic period of desegregation, but it also ultimately led to a drastic loss of educators of color, especially Black educators, said Eric Duncan, assistant director for P-12 policy at the nonprofit Education Trust.
Data show how a growing number of public school students are students of color; in fact, they now make up more than half of the nation’s school-age population. So there’s been a renewed urgency to better match educators with the diversity of the nation and new generations of students, Duncan said. That urgency is also tied to conversations around the opportunity gap students of color face in public schools. Qualified teachers of color can play a role in ensuring these students’ success and closing those gaps.
National narratives on diversity suggest that there’s still a necessity for research affirming the need for these educators. Just this week, the Supreme Court is once again hearing a case addressing the topic of affirmative action in college admissions, a case that’s expected to have implications for K-12 school diversity plans.
And while there has been work underway to diversify the teaching profession—the National Center for Teacher Residencies is now developing and scaling up 14 teacher apprenticeship models including at historically Black colleges and universities—the handbook blends research and policy together in a way that helps more localized, evidence-based conversations take hold, Gist said.
She hopes readers can walk away with ideas on how to take action to support more teachers of color in classrooms across the country, and how to build a continuum of support for them.