- Recent Illinois Report Card data shows that, despite efforts to diversity faculties, white teachers continuing to dominate the state's teacher pipelines even as the white student population declines — and while Chicago Public Schools is better at recruiting and retaining teachers of color than most areas of the state, even it has a tremendous disparity between the percentage of students and teachers of color, Chalkbeat reports.
- Many of the staff diversity challenges facing schools in Illinois are the same as those facing the rest of the nation, chief among them being a decline in the number of black graduates with education degrees, which has dropped more than half in Illinois over a seven-year period, and the difficulty in retaining black teachers once they are hired.
- Suggested strategies for addressing the issue include providing greater support and mentoring during the first few years of teaching, including teacher residency programs, recruiting teachers from support staff and paraprofessionals, launching and expanding teacher academies at the high school level, and hiring a chief equity officer to focus on improving diversity — a move that Chicago Public Schools just recently made.
In recent years, a great amount of research has demonstrated the value in increasing the diversity of a school’s teaching workforce, especially as the student population continues to diversify. Students who are exposed to good teachers who look like them benefit in terms of expectations, achievement, discipline and graduation rates. These students are also more likely to turn to the teaching profession themselves if they have a positive role model they can identify with.
In many cases, students of color don't even have to be directly taught directly by a teacher of color to experience those boosts, though studies show that having at least one teacher who looks like them does make a difference in the long run. A diverse teaching workforce also ultimately benefits all students in terms of cultural exposure and learning to respect individuals whose backgrounds may differ from their own.
Once these teachers of color are hired, they also still need proper supports to retain them. Many teachers of color are thrust into low-performing, high-poverty schools from the beginning because it seems they will do the most good in that environment. But the stress of this situation, which can overwhelm even a teacher of considerable experience, sometimes drives these teachers away from the profession before they have time to acquire the skills and experience needed to make a difference.
Support in the form of teacher residencies or mentoring can help with retention, as can the feeling that their voice is heard and that that are making a positive impact. As students of color see the positive impact these teachers are making and the respect they're given, they may choose the teaching profession for themselves, making a more diverse teacher pool easier to achieve in the future.