Recruiting & Retaining Educators of Color

So you want to hire people of color to serve as teachers in your school…

It is important for children of color to see leaders who look like them in the classroom as well as in the principal’s office. Your teachers and administrators should reflect the student population in your school district. I can go on and on about teacher populations and student populations and have a bunch of data but I will not; you should know the current trends. While there are teachers and administrators of color in many of our urban and inner-city schools, we must improve the numbers. And, it is not enough to get them; you must keep them… if they’re good.

I have heard people say, I just can’t find enough qualified people of color to hire them. Wrong; either you just have not looked in the right places or you’re too lazy to find out where to look. Dr. Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania professor, penned an article about why college don’t hire faculty of color.[1] Her analysis may be controversial to some, but it speaks to a truth that people of color all too often experience via body language and tone. Her answer was because colleges don’t want faculty of color. I wonder how many K-12 institutions share hold that attitude; whenever I hear a school or district leader say that they don’t know where to look for talent among people of color, I wonder if they really, truly want more color among their teaching and administrator ranks. Dr. Ivory Toldson, director of the White House Initiative on HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), conducted an analysis of the top 10 occupations among black and white males who have at least a bachelor’s degree and primary school teacher was the number 1 profession of college-educated black men while secondary school teacher was number 5 for profession of college-educated black men.[2]

So then how do you attract candidates of color?

Action Steps for Recruiting:

  1. YOUR SCHOOL AND/OR DISTRICT MUST BE WILLING TO COMMIT TEACHING POSITIONS TO PEOPLE OF COLOR TEACHING & ADMINISTRATIVE CANDIDATES. Dedicate a specific number of teaching and/or administrator positions to educator candidates of color.
  2. YOUR SCHOOL AND/OR DISTRICT MUST CONSIDER PARTERNING WITH OTHER SCHOOLS AND/OR DISTRICTS TO HOST A TEACHING AND ADMINISTRATIVE JOB FAIR FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR. Host a job fair with other schools like yours or districts like yours specifically for educators of color. The more collaborators of hiring school districts you have the more prospective candidates you can attract. For those of you in PA, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education is an example of collaboration in this regard; see here
  3. PARTNER WITH HBCU’S AND RECRUIT PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS FROM THOSE INSTITUTIONS. HBCU schools of education are great places to find talent. They are not all located in the southern United States. They’re also located in PA, DE and MD. Reach out and invite students to come with the possibility of getting a job.
  4. BUILD CAPACITY FROM WITHIN; PARAPROFESSIONALS. Paraprofessionals, or Paras, are already in the classroom under the leadership of a teacher (in a de-facto internship) and if you have a Para who is a person of color, you have the inside track for recruiting a new staff member. Consider, in 1996 there were 149 paraprofessionals-to-teacher programs and of the participants, 77% were of a minority designation i.e. racial and/or gender (Haselkorn & Fideler, 1996).[3]
  5. BUILD CAPACITY FROM WITHIN; STUDENT AND ALUMNI. Encourage students of color at your school to become teachers by showing them the many benefits, financial and otherwise, to teaching in addition to giving back to the community. Reach out to your alumni base and encourage them to consider teaching if they haven’t already. Working at a school with a high student of color population is your own in-house recruiting warehouse where you can find and cultivate talent to rebuild and/or replenish your faculty and leadership… it would be wise of you to start there for the long-term.

Now again, it is not enough to get them in your schools; you have to keep them there. Teachers of color are more likely to work in urban and inner-city schools; schools with high concentrations of students of color and high concentrations of students in poverty. The lack of resources combined with the lack of appreciate they often feel from their administrators and White teacher colleagues help contribute to their high turnover rates. So, how do you keep them, you ask?

Action Steps for Retention:

  1. HIRE WITH THE INTENT TO PROMOTE. Don’t just bring in bodies of color to stay in the classroom… seek to move them into leadership because their perspectives are valued on a leadership level. Also, promoting teachers of color clears room for more teachers of color to get hired.
  2. HIRE MORE TEACHERS OF COLOR. Hiring 1 or 2 teachers of color will not do it. You need to a deeper roster of teachers of color to encourage other candidates of color to give careful consideration to applying with your school.
  3. BUILD A CULTURE WHERE TEACHERS OF COLOR ARE MORE THAN DISCIPLINARIANS; TREAT THEM AS CONTENT EXPERTS. Teachers of color, specifically Black males, are teachers not de-facto disciplinarians when cannot handle or communicate with a student. They are not police officers. Rather they are leaders in their content areas and experts at their craft. They are to be respected as would any White teacher.
  4. ENCOURAGE, EVEN FACILITATE A COMMUNITY OF EDUCATORS OF COLOR TO GATHER REGULARLY IN YOUR SCHOOL AND/OR DISTRICT. It is good for all teachers to meet and collaborate, but it is important for teachers of color to meet with each other to gain emotional support from each other and gain strategies for improving their practice. Creating a culture of mentorship and fellowship among teachers of color can offer the support necessary to “stick it out” when discouraged or frustrated with the ebbs and flows of teaching.
  5. COLLABORATE WITH HBCU’S TO DEVELOP AND PROVIDE SCHOOL/DISTRICT BASED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR NOVICE AND EXPERIENCED TEACHERS. It is fair to say that school-based PD isn’t always the most useful. Work with HBCU schools of education faculty to develop school based trainings and PD that teachers of color can use the next day to be better at their craft.

I did not speak about offering a high salary intentionally. Many urban and/or inner city schools pay well, particularly charter schools. However, money isn’t everything. If that is your strategy, to pay the most money, you may recruit teachers of color but it is not a guarantee that you will keep them. People of color don’t get into teaching for the money. Teachers of color, like many of their White counterparts, want to give back to the community and teach those who they see themselves in. They wish to invest their time and efforts into the students they once were. So in order to tap into that spirit to bring out the best in those teachers of color, you must too invest your time and efforts to show them that you will chase after them, court them, love and cherish them. No, recruiting and retaining educators of color isn’t a marriage; however it is a serious commitment.

Let’s continue to press towards the mark.

Further Reading on the Topic:

[1] You can read Dr. Gasman’s article here:

[2] You can read Dr. Toldson’s article here:

[3] Haselkorn, D., & Fideler, E. (1996). Breaking the class ceiling: Paraeducator pathways to teaching. Belmont, MA: Recruiting New Teachers, Inc. ED 398 184


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