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Retaining Teachers of Color
May 2020


What does the research say about how a welcoming environment or other strategies to promote a sense of belonging increases the retention of new teachers of color?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Achinstein, B., Ogawa, R. T., Sexton, D., & Freitas, C. (2010). Retaining teachers of color: A pressing problem and a potential strategy for "hard-to-staff" schools. Review of Educational Research, 80(1), 71–107.

From the Abstract:
"Given calls to diversify the teaching workforce, this review examines research on retention and turnover of teachers of color, focusing on new teachers because they leave at disproportionately high rates. Reviewing 70 studies, the authors found that (a) recent national studies identify turnover rates for teachers of color are now higher than those for White teachers; (b) policy-amenable school-level conditions related to financial, human, social, and cultural capital can affect retention; (c) teachers of color are more likely than Whites to work and remain in "hard-to-staff" urban schools with high proportions of students from low-income and nondominant racial and cultural communities; and (d) factors affecting the retention of teachers of color can contribute to staffing urban schools with quality teachers, including teachers' humanistic commitments, innovative approaches in the professional preparation of teachers of color, and the presence of multicultural capital in schools."

Note: REL Northwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. This article is available to read online at: for a limited time.

Bristol, T. J. (2019). A tale of two types of schools: An exploration of how school working conditions influence black male teacher turnover (EdWorkingPaper No.19-38). Retrieved from Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University:

From the Abstract:
"This phenomenological study draws on semi-structured interviews with 27 Black male teachers across 14 schools in an urban school district—seven schools with three or more Black male teachers and seven schools with one Black male teacher. Consistent with theories about teacher turnover, findings indicate a relationship between organizational characteristics, reasons participants cited for leaving, and participants’ actual decisions to stay or leave."

Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Why black women teachers leave and what can be done about it. In A. Farinde-Wu, A. Allen-Handy, & C.W. Lewis (Eds.), Black female teachers: Diversifying the United States' teacher workforce (pp.159–184). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This study uses the most recent national data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), 2011–2012 and Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), 2012–2013 to investigate attrition trends among Black teachers, and Black female teachers in particular, to inform a qualitative analysis of proposed and adopted teacher retention policy interventions. This study asks: Why do Black teachers report leaving, and what would bring them back to the classroom? What working conditions are associated with Black teacher attrition? What policy interventions can meet the needs of Black teachers in having successful and supported teaching experiences? How have these interventions been successful, and what are the considerations for applying them more broadly? We find that Black teacher turnover rates are significantly higher than those of other teachers and that there are several substantive differences in their preparation, school characteristics, and reasons for leaving. We describe policy interventions that target these conditions, such as teacher residencies, loan forgiveness, mentoring and induction, and principal training programs. We include in that discussion the relative benefits and challenges of each implications for policymaking."

Gist, C. D. (2018). Human resource development for racial/ethnic diversity: Do school systems value teachers of color? Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(3), 345–358. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The small representation of Teachers of Color in comparison with their White counterparts continues to trouble the teaching profession. Since Teachers of Color often have a vital impact on student engagement and academic outcomes, there is a pressing need to identify policies and practices that increase recruitment and retention. The Solution. Given the current state of racial/ethnic teacher diversity in the United States, human resource development scholarship can be informative for addressing teacher retention. The Diversity Intelligence (DQ) and People as Technology (PT) Conceptual Model, as human resource development conceptual tools, are useful for understanding ways to support the academic and professional growth of Teachers of Color. These models are positioned to advance educational leaders’ and human resource professionals’ understandings of the ways in which the education field works to increase the number of Teachers of Color who enter and remain in the profession."

Huisman, S., Singer, N. R., & Catapano, S. (2010). Resiliency to success: Supporting novice urban teachers. Teacher Development, 14(4), 483–499. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Each year, the National Center for Educational Statistics, through the US Department of Education Institute of Educational Sciences, publishes information about the need for millions of new teachers in the USA. Many of these positions are in urban schools. What makes new teachers beat the odds and remain in challenging schools? This study considers existing research on the common characteristics found in resilient urban teachers and extends that research with interview data from 12 novice urban teachers who participated in a mentoring program designed to attract and retain quality urban educators. Using positioning theory, this study highlights seven characteristics common among the participants. Identifying these characteristics and the ways in which the novice teachers used them may help urban district administrators and teacher educators assist novice teachers in positioning themselves to feel successful – and ultimately to be retained – in urban classrooms."

Ingersoll, R., May, H., & Collins, G. (2017). Minority teacher recruitment, employment, and retention: 1987 to 2013. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This study examines and compares the recruitment, employment, and retention of minority and nonminority school teachers over the past quarter century. Our objective is to empirically ground the debate over minority teacher shortages. The data we analyze are from the National Center for Education Statistics’ nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and its longitudinal supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS).1 Our data analyses show that a gap persists between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in the U.S. school system. But this gap is not due to a failure to recruit new minority teachers. Over the past two and a half decades, from 1987 to 2012, the number of minority teachers has more than doubled, outpacing growth in both the number of nonminority teachers and the number of minority students. Minority teachers are also overwhelmingly employed in public schools serving high-poverty, high-minority, and urban communities. Hence, the data suggest that widespread efforts over the past several decades to recruit more minority teachers and employ them in hard-to-staff and disadvantaged schools have been very successful. However, the data also show that over the past two and a half decades, turnover rates among minority teachers have been significantly higher than among nonminority teachers. Though schools’ demographic characteristics appear to be highly important to minority teachers’ initial employment decisions, this does not appear to be the case for their later decisions to stay or depart. Neither a school’s poverty-level student enrollment, nor a school’s minority student enrollment, nor a school’s proportion of minority teachers, nor whether the school was in an urban or suburban community was strongly or significantly related to the likelihood that minority teachers would stay or depart, after controlling for other background factors. In contrast, organizational and working conditions in schools were strongly related to minority teacher departures. Indeed, once organizational conditions were held constant, there was no significant difference in the rates of minority and nonminority teacher turnover."

Mosely, M. (2018). The Black teacher project: How racial affinity professional development sustains Black teachers. The Urban Review, 50(2), 267–283. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The Black Teacher Project (BTP) is an organization that supports, develops and sustains Black teachers for schools in the United States. The organization is building a Black teaching force that reflects the diversity and excellence of Black people in the United States. In our pilot year, BTP offered racial affinity-based professional development supports for Black teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, and sought to understand the impact on the teachers who participated. This article describes the findings from these supports, including a yearlong book study, inquiry groups, and drop-in "Rejuvenation Spaces." A key finding from this initial pilot study is that racial affinity-based professional development decreases isolation and increases retention for Black teachers."

Simon, N. S., Johnson, S. M., & Reinhorn, S. K. (2015). The challenge of recruiting and hiring teachers of color: Lessons from six high-performing, high-poverty, urban schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This qualitative analysis of teacher teams is part of a larger, comparative case study, "Developing Human Capital Within Schools," conducted by the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. Within one city, we interviewed 142 teachers and administrators in six high-poverty schools (three charter and three district), all of which had achieved the highest ranking in the state’s accountability system. Here, we analyze how each school approached the process of recruiting and hiring Black and Latino teachers. All six schools reported that recruiting Black and Latino teachers was an enormous challenge—one compounded by the rapid rate of turnover among those they hired. Each had strategically adapted its recruitment and hiring processes to address the unique challenges of recruiting and hiring teachers of color. Principals recognized the important role that current teachers of color might play in recruiting more teachers of color, and therefore each school engaged teachers of color in their processes in some way. At two schools, teachers of color were active partners in developing and enacting a strategy. Teachers were clear that this worked because the school was already an inclusive environment where conversations about race were commonplace. At other schools, however, school leaders and talent staff formulated an advertising strategy that depended on current teachers of color to convey the image of a diverse teaching staff. But, they did not formally acknowledge the important role that teachers of color were expected to play in this process. In these schools, teachers often expressed skepticism and sometimes resentment about their school’s approach."

Other References

Bristol, T. (2015). Culturally diverse classrooms: Differentiating PD for male teachers of color. ASCD Express, 10(13). Retrieved from

From the Document:
"In the fall of 2014, students of color became the majority of all U.S. public school students (Associated Press, 2014). At the same time, however, recent data show less than 15 percent of the nation's teachers are Black or Latino (Duncan, 2011). Considering that students of color, especially young men, exhibit great in-school and out-of-school challenges (Bristol, 2015), it is even more troubling that 2 percent of all U.S. teachers are Latino men (Maxwell, 2012), less than 2 percent are Black men (Duncan, 2011), and only 0.5 percent are Asian men (Toldson, 2013). Perhaps if schools can get better at attracting and retaining male teachers of color, they might also be places where historically marginalized and traditionally at-risk groups could begin to thrive, too.


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Sense of belonging, Welcoming (Environment OR climate), "Teachers of color", Retention

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.