Teacher recruitment has become a major focus of school districts, universities, and educational organizations. However, I’m old school, and I believe what my grandfather told me. He said, “what you do to get them is what you’ll have to maintain to keep them.” As local school districts deal with the growing teacher shortage, how we are recruiting teachers has become part of a larger conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion within public schools.
Almost every school system advertises through their human resource departments that they are looking for simply the best talent to educate our children. Nevertheless, we continue to see high numbers of teachers leaving public schools. Most distinct is the retention of male educators of color who are already few in number in many public school districts. The ability to keep male educators, specifically Black male teachers, in the classroom has become more of a crisis than a simple coincidence.
Public school districts inability to support Black male teachers highlights a grave concern of equity in which Black boys are disproportionately represented in special education programs and suspension rates in public schools. I believe this speaks to the failure of public schools to over-police Black males through biased policies and lack of educational resources to advance exposure, educational experiences, and success.
Public school districts aren’t truly offering what their human resource departments are selling and teachers are taking their talents elsewhere.
Jill Nyhus wrote a powerful article for Insight Education Group on retaining teachers.
It’s stated in the article that, “Teachers have the largest in-school impact on student achievement. We also know that teacher quality has a greater impact on student outcomes than any other factor, including race, socioeconomic status, and prior academic record.” This weight teachers carry in public institutions can be unbearable.
According to the research done by Jill Nyhus, teachers are leaving public schools in large numbers, and it’s not just due to COVID-19. The same public school systems investing money in recruiting teachers aren’t utilizing innovative ways to retain them.
A couple of years ago while teaching special education in Douglas County, I often would hear teachers complain how the district’s policy around grading forced teachers to pass students even if they didn’t meet or exceed the state standards. What happened to quality education being provided to students? One teacher stated, “we are doing them a disservice” in a faculty meeting, and at the end of this year, the teacher wasn’t offered a contract. Nyhus’s article highlighted reasons why teachers are leaving public school districts, but it didn’t speak to the retaliation towards teachers who speak out against unjust and inequitable policies.
Recruitment is something that everyone is focusing on, but how do we get more teachers, especially male educators or color to stay?
EdLanta wants parents, students, and other stakeholders to pay closer attention to why certain groups of teachers are leaving their schools, especially Black teachers. Most alarmingly are the large numbers of Black male educators who are already underrepresented in education and leaving the profession within 1-3 years. The fact that only 2%, in 2021, of the education workforce are Black male teachers should be an urgent matter for school boards.
Organizations such as Profound Gentlemen (PG) are working to support public school districts with innovative ways to retain male educators of color that match the same excitement districts drive with recruiting them. It’s not just the pay incentives that aren’t enough, but it’s the culture of public schools, the ways in which Black teachers, students, and families are welcomed, engaged, and supported, that plays a crucial role in keeping male educators in classrooms.
In speaking with members of PG, many have said that prospective male teachers of color are turned off by public schools not making clear, bold statements regarding their anti-racist stance. These statements and the policies that support them are important factors as to why teachers are leaving the field. What ends up happening is that year after year, school systems bring in quality teachers, but don’t have the diversity, inclusion, and equity in all areas of the system to keep them.
In her article, Nyhus highlights that teachers of color are more likely to leave than their white counterparts. As a Black male special education teacher, I can tell you that too often public schools feel like prisons for children and teachers of color.
Perhaps at the end of it all, it isn’t really recruitment that is so much of the issue. It may simply be that public education systems need to change, and that change starts with equitable hiring practices and educational flexibility that will help keep more teachers in classrooms.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.