Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Pathways Into Teaching: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of High Leverage Opportunities to Increase the Representation of Teachers of Color in Tennessee Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Grissom, Jason Awardee: Vanderbilt University
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2022 – 06/30/2026) Award Amount: $1,699,019
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A220054

Co-Principal Investigators: Ronfeldt, Matthew; Slay, Kelly E.

Purpose: A growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of a racially and ethnically diverse teaching workforce, yet diversifying teaching remains a challenge in many states. This challenge stems, in part, from a scarcity of research into the varied pathways of teachers of color into classrooms, how the policies and processes they encounter along those pathways affect their experiences, and how those experiences can divert them from the pathway or prepare them for teaching success. The goal of this project is to comprehensively map the diverse pathways into teaching for teachers of color, as compared to other teachers, in one state, at which stages they are leaving, and why, with the goal of identifying high-leverage opportunities for intervention to increase the representation of teachers of color. Researchers will also link characteristics of these pathways to the later instructional effectiveness of teachers and their students' outcomes, as well as their job attitudes. Researchers will examine both traditional routes through teacher preparation programs and alternative routes, such as residency and "grow your own" programs. Researchers will also consider the roles of licensure requirements, including licensure examinations, and teacher candidates' experiences with job seeking, and how those experiences intersect with districts' and schools' strategies for recruiting, hiring, and initially supporting teachers of color as they transition into the classroom.

Project Activities: Taking a mixed-methods approach, researchers will analyze administrative, survey, and interview data from Tennessee. Researchers will use the state's P–20 data system to track the progression of potential teachers by race/ethnicity within teacher education programs over the period 2010 to 2023 and, if they divert from the pathway into teaching, to describe the jobs they take instead. Researchers will also use these data to describe populations of potential teachers entering alternative route programs. Once teachers pursue licensure, researchers can track them in administrative data available through the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA), which provides information about work histories and job performance, and links teachers to their students. TERA also collects teacher feedback each year through the Tennessee Educator Survey. Researchers will use TERA/TES data to investigate, by race/ethnicity, how teachers fare in completing licensure requirements, which schools they are hired into, and their initial work experiences, job attitudes, and performance, as measured by classroom observation ratings and student achievement. Researchers will conduct regression analyses to link characteristics of their preparation and pathway to these outcomes. Researchers will supplement these quantitative analyses with interviews of teacher candidates of color in traditional and alternative programs. Researchers will also interview job seekers and new teachers of color to learn about their job market and induction/support experiences. Researchers will pair these interviews with interviews of select preparation program directors, district personnel, and school leaders to capture their strategies for preparing, recruiting, and supporting teachers of color.

Products: This project will result in a series of journal articles, policy briefs, and presentations reporting on challenges to advancing teachers of color along the pathway to teaching, documenting successful strategies for overcoming those challenges, describing the experiences of potential teachers of color along the pathway, and testing how those experiences correlate with their instructional effectiveness, student outcomes, and job attitudes.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participants will be prospective and current teachers of color in Tennessee.

Sample: The sample will include all (a) teacher candidates in traditional preparation and alternative route programs and (b) novice teachers in Tennessee, by race/ethnicity, from 2010 to 2023. Tennessee has 39 teacher preparation institutions that prepare teachers to work in 1,800 schools in 147 districts. Approximately 15% of new teachers are teachers of color.

Factors: Researchers will document characteristics of the pathways of potential teachers by race/ethnicity through traditional and alternative route programs, licensure, job seeking, and hiring and into initial years in teaching. Researchers will relate these characteristics to teachers' experiences and progression along the pathway, and to their instructional effectiveness, students' outcomes, and job attitudes.

Research Design and Methods: This mixed-methods study links four types of data: (1) data from the state's P–20 system that permits tracking of potential teachers prior to entering teaching; (2) administrative data on educators and students provided through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education; (3) surveys of potential teachers, current teachers, and school and district leaders; and (4) interviews with potential teachers, current teachers, preparation program staff, and district and school leaders involved in teacher recruitment, hiring, and support. The quantitative analysis will document pathways and points of diversion from those pathways by race/ethnicity. It will also model (1) the progression along the pathway into teaching for potential teachers by race and (2) current teachers' outcomes (e.g., instructional effectiveness, student achievement, job attitudes) as a function of pathway characteristics and experiences using regression-based longitudinal-data techniques that control for other factors affecting these outcomes. Qualitative analysis will provide rich descriptions of the pathway experiences of (potential) teachers of color and illuminate the strategies that preparation programs and school systems employ to advance teachers of color along that pathway.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the study, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Researchers will measure teacher effectiveness using observation ratings supplied by the state's required evaluation system and student achievement growth for the subset of teachers for whom growth measures are available. Researchers will also capture experiences and attitudes of potential and current teachers of color using interviews and surveys. Researchers will track progression along the pathway into teaching (e.g., completing program, passing licensure requirements) as well as retention of early-career teachers of color.

Data Analytic Strategy: The analysis will include descriptive analysis, multivariate methods, and qualitative analysis. Models of instructional effectiveness and student outcomes as a function of pathway characteristics will employ panel data methods (e.g., school fixed effects). Researchers will apply a mixture of inductive and deductive methods to interview data to provide a more complete understanding of pathways for teachers of color and how those pathways link to the job experiences of current teachers.