Excellent teachers and leaders for every child
Every student deserves passionate and highly effective teachers and leaders throughout their educational careers. Therefore it is critical to develop a pipeline of well-trained, highly compensated, and appropriately supported educators who reflect the student communities they serve.
Recruit and retain a racially and ethnically diverse teacher workforce
Increase access to highly effective educators for historically underserved students
Approximately 83 percent of teachers nationally are white, and, in Tennessee, approximately 82 percent of principals and 87 percent of teachers are white. By 2024, students of color are expected to make up approximately 56 percent of the student population nationally, and in Tennessee, by 2060, students of color are expected to make up approximately 40 percent of the student population. Clearly large gaps persist in Tennessee between teacher and student demographics. There is also a large opportunity and access gap that persists throughout the educator pipeline as black and brown teacher and leader candidates represent less than 15 percent of those roles.
In Tennessee, the number of white teacher candidates enrolled in institutions of higher education has persistently hovered around eighty percent, and in 2017, was approximately 85 percent. Teacher candidates of color tend to decrease along the pipeline at key points due to different barriers and access issues. Students of color enrolled in K-12 are disproportionately and historically underserved academically and have their educational processes interrupted by exclusionary discipline. This manifests itself throughout the postsecondary pipeline. Teachers and leaders of color tend to leak from the pipeline during the following five key points: (1) postsecondary enrollment; (2) enrollment in education programs; (3) postsecondary completion; (4) entering the workforce; and (5) teacher retention. Educator preparation programs (EPP) must focus on keeping students of color in the pipeline in order to stabilize and increase the number of teachers of color in the workforce.
Teachers of color are also recruited and hired at lower rates than their white peers. This is due in part to the minimal pool of candidates, but also due to negative signals employers receive from inequitable screening tools like Praxis scores. Teachers of color are also disproportionately placed in high-needs, high-poverty districts where they are subject to negative working conditions, including: lack of administrative support, feelings of isolation, and low pay.
Negative working conditions is one of the reasons that teachers of color are more likely to be transient, bouncing from school to school within districts. This transience makes practices targeted at retention more important than ever. One way for districts to retain teachers of color is to gear induction programs toward new teachers of color and to offer continuous and differentiated professional development and learning experiences to meet their specific needs. Professional learning communities and affinity spaces are imperative to retaining teachers of color and building a sustainable pipeline to instructional leadership positions. Without retaining teachers of colors, creating more diversity within the principal pipeline is a challenge because the majority of principals are drawn from pools of teachers.
Students housed in the nation’s highest-poverty schools face challenges their peers do not. They are four times more likely to be taught by an uncertified teacher, and approximately 1.7 times more likely to be taught by a novice teacher. During the 2014–15 school year, 13 percent of Tennessee’s novice teachers received an overall effectiveness score of a one or a two. Low-income schools in Tennessee are also the most difficult to staff for high demand subjects like ESL, world languages, science, special education and math. Educator preparation programs and districts play an important role in preparing effective teachers to succeed in the classroom, and in providing enough teachers for the available jobs in Tennessee districts.
EPPs should start by focusing on strategically placing candidates into diverse schools during their clinical experiences so that candidates are more comfortable considering a similar school environments when seeking jobs. Additionally, school leaders should identify high-quality mentor teachers to coach teacher candidates. High-quality mentors are essential to developing strong candidates that are ready to enter into the classroom and lead students to dramatic gains in academic achievement. Teachers who are identified as mentors should be offered ongoing training and coaching from district and school leaders on how to mentor, as well as, have a standardized state curriculum to ensure the quality of mentors is consistent from region to region. In addition to supports, districts must compensate mentors for taking on mentees.
The Department of Education has recommended that EPPs must be more intentional and strategic about directing hiring for completers. In the same vein, districts must be more diligent and intentional about recruiting diverse teacher candidates from throughout the state. EPPs and school districts can also work together to incentivize teacher candidates to pursue teaching in high-needs communities through housing assistance programs or offering loan forgiveness.