The significant ESSER dollars flowing to states, school districts and institutes of higher education over the next two years present a unique, urgent opportunity to address systemic barriers to more students having excellent teachers that mirror students’ diverse identities. As our colleague recently wrote in our Educator Diversity blog series, an increase in teacher diversity, specifically Black teachers, is linked to increases in academic success and social and emotional development for all students, especially students of color. We believe the moment is now to recruit and train more teacher candidates of color.
Teacher candidates of color face obstacles at every stage of the teacher development pipeline. Flush with new dollars and few strings attached, districts can remove those obstacles and improve systems to recruit, prepare and support teachers and leaders of color. At Education First, we’ve been excited to partner with states, districts and teacher preparation programs (TPPs) pursuing promising strategies that others can use and adapt. A key theme through all these strategies is strategic, sustained collaboration and coordination between districts and the TPPs that develop future hires.
- Partner with teacher preparation programs to establish a shared vision for high quality preparation that includes specific goals for recruiting and preparing teachers of color. Support teacher prep programs to achieve those goals. Strengthening teacher preparation with curriculum aligned to district needs and a rigorous and relevant clinical experience is more critical than ever, as COVID has challenged the continuity and quality of student learning for the past year and a half. This toolkit offers recommendations for districts and teacher prep programs committed to strengthening teacher preparation collaboratively, including highlighting the work of successful partnerships, articulating specific steps partners can take, and providing tools and artifacts developed by partners to support their work.
- Develop and scale high quality, paid teacher residencies to give teachers of color the opportunity to learn the complex craft of teaching through practice and mentorship, while earning an income. Teacher residencies are proven to be a successful model of teacher preparation, and many districts and TPPs have figured out how to scale them so they are accessible to more candidates, particularly candidates of color. Read case studies from districts and TPPs in Texas to learn about strategies such as innovative, sustainable staffing models to fund new roles such as residents and mentors.
- Develop an early pathway program to attract and nurture future teacher candidates that are reflective of and committed to the community. Often referred to as “Grow Your Own” programs, these early pathways target high school students and after school staff and provide them with hands-on experience, dual credit, and tuition support for teacher preparation coursework. We’ve recently supported Chicago Public Schools, in partnerships with local teacher preparation programs, to design and launch Teach Chicago Tomorrow.
- Provide financial incentives including loan forgiveness, loan repayments, relocation bonuses and stipends for teacher candidates of color who commit to teaching in Title I-eligible public schools for at least 3-5 years. According to the Learning Policy Institute, student debt for preparation has increased and is untenable for many candidates, particularly students of color. In addition, research shows that teachers of color often take on more responsibilities inside and outside the classroom (e.g. mentorship, translation, etc.) that are not recognized or compensated.
ESSER provides an unparalleled opportunity for districts, states and institutions of higher education to make a significant set of investments to dramatically increase the number of teachers of color in classrooms across the country.