Study: Principals, support programs key to retaining black teachers
- A study from the University of Washington used data from 2004-2015 to track retention rates of black teachers in North Carolina, discovering a retention gap of about 2% between black and white teachers — a lower gap than seen in some other areas, Chalkbeat reports.
- However, when factors that predict higher teacher turnover rates such as school type and the age of the teacher were accounted for, the racial turnover gap disappeared. In fact, in schools with a higher population of black students, the retention rate of black teachers was slightly higher than that of white teachers.
- From her research, Sun concluded that part of the reason for the overall retention gap was the fact that black teachers tended to work in more challenging work situations with less-effective principal leadership and mentoring programs and lower-quality professional development support.
Over the past few years, research has shown that black teachers are an important asset to a school because of the positive effects they have on achievement for students of color. Nationwide, while recruitment of black teachers has improved, retention continues to be a problem. Most teachers enter the classroom because of a desire to serve students, and while addressing financial concerns may help with recruitment efforts, it seems that the causes of black teacher turnover are more deeply rooted.
A 2016 federal report on the state of racial diversity in the classroom points to one reason for this situation, stating, "Recruitment and retention of teachers of color may be affected by the larger percent of teachers of color who participate in alternative teacher preparation programs. Alternatively prepared teachers tend to work in poor urban schools with high proportions of students of color."
Those schools also tend to have higher turnover than more affluent schools, as they are often staffed with less experienced principals and may not have the same support resources as wealthier schools.
The North Carolina study noted the lack of effective principals and professional development in these schools as a factor in black teacher retention. This is examined by a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, which states, “Teaching conditions, and administrative support particularly, play a key role in teachers’ decisions to stay in a school or in the profession. Recent evidence shows that administrative support is especially critical in improving the retention of teachers of color.”
Effective principals are more likely to give teachers a voice, develop a positive school culture, and provide the support structure teachers need in challenging school situations. There are resources available that can help district administrators develop stronger principals, an effort that may help retain teachers that make some of the biggest impacts on their schools.