Newswise — With higher rates of attrition among teachers of color, retaining a diverse K-12 teaching force might be harder than recruiting one. So, through various initiatives and programs, the CSU is stepping in to ensure the teachers it recruits and trains keep teaching.
Just look to Ernest Black, Ed.D., systemwide program director of the online teaching credential program CalStateTEACH, who supports the program’s male students of color with a men’s group and words of advice.
“These students need you,” Dr. Black tells his students. “They don’t need you to be their father; they don’t need you to be their friend. But they do need to see you. They do need to see your professionalism. So, we’re going to give you everything you need to know to be a great teacher. Then you’re going to go into the classroom and be yourself.”
Staying in the classroom can be particularly difficult for teachers of color, though, as they commonly deal with a lack of school staff diversity, classroom autonomy and administrative support. In addition, they are two to three times more likely to work in low-income, urban schools with fewer resources, poorer work conditions and overall teacher turnover rates that are 70 percent higher.
“Teachers of color tend to be employed in the schools that have lower socioeconomic status, but also tend to have higher rates of homelessness and suspension,” Black says. “After years of working in this environment, [they] are drained and are most likely to leave the profession.”
But the success of young minority students remains deeply tied to their having teachers of color, so here are some of the ways the CSU is supporting teacher retention efforts.
- Teacher Preparation
“Teacher preparation programs do not fully prepare teacher candidates for the other side of teaching: how to keep their spirits high and energy going, how to advocate for themselves as well as their students, how to navigate a system as an adult that they may or may not have effectively navigated as a student themselves,” Black says. “We have to start giving them some skills so when they get there, they’re not overwhelmed and burn out so quickly.”
That’s where his CalStateTEACH men’s group comes in. Once a month, he gathers a group of men of color—students, alumni and other men already working as teachers, principals and superintendents—to discuss the challenges that often cause teachers like them to leave the profession.
Black created the group after his team’s research showed only half of the 63 African American men who entered the program during a 10-year period (compared to the roughly 600 students who start it each year) graduated. Because they dropped out largely due to how they were treated while student-teaching, the group aims to prepare the men for these obstacles ahead of time.
“We know that once they get to a school site, they have a lot of responsibilities outside of teaching,” Black says. “They’re not just a teacher, they’re a role model. They’re not just a role model, they’re a disciplinarian. They’re not just a disciplinarian, they’re a coach. So, it’s a lot going on and the program alone doesn’t teach you all of that.”
- Grow Your Own Programs
From recruiting among middle school and high school students to credentialing non-certified school staff, Grow Your Own programs help retain teachers, especially teachers of color, by bringing in those who are already committed to a certain school or district.
For example, the Classified School Employees Credential Program provides grants to paraprofessionals, bus drivers, administrative support staff and others already working at a school who want to earn their teaching credential. Once they complete their certification, they then return to their schools to teach.
“What's important about those programs is you are tapping community members whose children went to that school and they are vested in that community,” says Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor, Educator Preparation and Public School Programs at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.
“Candidates for these programs may include a paraprofessional or a cafeteria worker at the school who enjoys being around children,” Dr. Grenot-Scheyer continues. “This person has the right dispositions, and our job is to help her get a degree and a credential, so that she can stay in the school and be really successful.”
- Training & Mentorship
Because a lack of administrative support can cause many minority teachers, especially men, to leave the classroom, CSUN has partnered with University of California, Berkeley and the Compton Unified School District on a three-year pilot program to boost recruitment and retention among male teachers of color.
The program’s workshops bring together seasoned and new male teachers who can share best practices, sit in on each other’s classes and act as mentors to future educators. In addition, university experts train the teachers and administers on ways to support and mentor new teachers of color. The goal is to create a training program and culture of mentorship that can be rolled out to other school districts.
“As our country becomes more diverse, the importance of having a diverse group of teachers is absolutely essential,” says CSUN’s Alberto Restori, Ph.D., chair and professor of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. “I don’t think we’re successful as teachers if we don’t reflect the students we’re working with. But often teachers of different backgrounds go into schools and feel alone. The goal of this program is to help these teachers become part of the teaching community.”
- Teacher Recruitment
When teachers of color have more diverse colleagues, they feel less isolated, are more satisfied with their jobs and are less likely to resign. It makes sense then that efforts to diversify the teaching staff within schools would help reduce turnover rates.
Cal State Long Beach’s Teachers for Urban Schools initiative aims to increase the number of teachers of color by offering scholarships to students interested in working in urban schools. The initiative then helps retain these teachers by providing them with a faculty mentor, hosting instructional workshops, giving them hands-on experience in Long Beach schools and pairing them with a community mentor.
“We’re trying to build support for them while they’re with us that would persist beyond graduation: joining professional organizations, going to conferences, finding people they can rely on and lean on,” says Shireen Pavri, Ph.D., CSULB dean of the College of Education and professor of special education.