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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Teacher Workforce

July 2018


What does the research say about effective practices for recruiting and retaining teachers of color?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for literature reviews, journal articles, and research reports on effective practices for recruiting and retaining teachers of color. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

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. Retrieved from

From the ERIC 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 Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Ahmad, F. Z., & Boser, U. (2014). America’s leaky pipeline for teachers of color: Getting more teachers of color into the classroom. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “To prepare American students for lives of high achievement, America’s schools need a teaching corps that is not only highly effective but also racially and ethnically diverse. Progress has been made in recent decades in attracting people of color to the teaching profession. But major barriers—including a scarcity of high-quality, teacher-training programs targeted at teachers of color; the educational debt students of color must shoulder; and the general lack of esteem in our society for teaching—stand in the way of producing an optimal pool of teachers. Without vigorous policy innovations and public investment, the demographic gap will only widen to the detriment of children’s education. This report will describe how the shortcomings of today’s education system and the underachievement of many of today’s students of color shrink the future supply of teachers of color. Furthermore, it will offer policy recommendations through which federal and state education agencies and local school districts can address this critical problem.”

Bireda, S., & Chait, R. (2011). Increasing teacher diversity: Strategies to improve the teacher workforce. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The lack of diversity in the teaching force is troubling for several reasons. Fewer minority teachers may indicate that few minorities are interested in pursuing a career in teaching. The low number of minority teachers also may indicate that there are fewer minority candidates with the skills and qualifications to enter the field. The inability to retain highly effective minority teachers, like all teachers, is also a challenge for many schools and districts and may indicate high turnover of certain teachers. Increasing the number of teachers of color is not only a matter of a philosophical commitment to diversity in career opportunities. Teachers of color provide real-life examples to minority students of future career paths. In this way, increasing the number of current teachers of color may be instrumental to increasing the number of future teachers of color. And while there are effective teachers of many races, teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for engaging students of similar backgrounds. However, recruitment alone will not solve the minority teacher shortage, but highly effective strategies may increase the number of entering teachers to a rate that outpaces turnover. Finely tuned recruitment efforts that seek teachers who are likely to succeed and provide support while in the classroom, even in challenging schools, can help in increasing retention. This paper highlights elements of these innovative recruitment strategies, presents brief case studies of programs, and suggests recommendations for state and local policy to support such programs and strategies.”

Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). Diversifying the field: Barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers of color and how to overcome them. Literature review. San Antonio, TX: Equity Assistance Center Region II, Intercultural Development Research Association. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This paper examines the current state of teachers of color in the workforce, the factors that affect the recruitment, hiring, and retention of teachers of color, and opportunities for growing a stable workforce of teachers of color. The first section of this paper, The Current State of Teachers of Color in the United States, includes a description of the proportion and growth and teachers of color in the workforce based on several national data sources and an analysis of the most recent nationally representative data sets from the U.S. Department of Education Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) 2011-12 and the SASS Teacher Follow-up Survey 2013-14. This section also summarizes recent literature regarding the value to students of a racially diverse teacher workforce, followed by a discussion of the significant role teacher retention plays in shortages of teachers of color. The second section of this paper, Barriers to Recruiting & Retaining Teachers of Color, summarizes the most recent literature on factors affecting the recruitment, hiring and retention of teachers of color. Included within this discussion is enrollment in and completion of high quality teacher preparation, school closure and turnaround policies, and teacher working conditions. The final section of the paper, Promising Practices, examines the evidence for promising practices aimed at overcoming the common barriers to recruiting, hiring, and retaining teachers of color identified in section two. These practices include funding high-retention pathways into teaching, such as teacher residencies, Grow Your Own programs, and college mentoring and support programs; creating pro-active hiring and induction strategies; and improving school teaching conditions through improved school leadership.”

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 (Advances in Race and Ethnicity in Education, Volume 6), (pp. 159–184). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing. 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.”

Ingersoll, R. M., & May, H. (2011). Recruitment, retention and the minority teacher shortage (CPRE Research Report #RR-69). Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This study examines and compares the recruitment and retention of minority and White elementary and secondary teachers and attempts 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 and its longitudinal supplement, the Teacher Follow-up Survey. Our data analyses show that a gap continues to persist 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 decades, the number of minority teachers has almost doubled, outpacing growth in both the number of White 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. This increase in the proportion of teachers who are minority is remarkable because the data also show that over the past two decades, turnover rates among minority teachers have been significantly higher than among White teachers. Moreover, 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, a school’s minority student enrollment, a school’s proportion of minority teachers, nor whether the school was in an urban or suburban community was consistently or significantly related to the likelihood that minority teachers would stay or depart, after controlling for other background factors. In contrast, organizational conditions in schools were strongly related to minority teacher departures. Indeed, once organizational conditions are held constant, there was no significant difference in the rates of minority and White teacher turnover. The schools in which minority teachers have disproportionately been employed have had, on average, less positive organizational conditions than the schools where White teachers are more likely to work, resulting in disproportionate losses of minority teachers. The organizational conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the level of collective faculty decision-making influence and the degree of individual classroom autonomy held by teachers; these factors were more significant than were salary, professional development or classroom resources. Schools allowing more autonomy for teachers in regard to classroom issues and schools with higher levels of faculty input into school-wide decisions had far lower levels of turnover.”

Ingersoll, R. M., 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: “The study examines the extent and sources of the minority teacher shortage—the low proportion of minority teachers in comparison to the increasing numbers of minority students in the school system. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey/Teacher Follow-Up Survey, we found that efforts over recent decades to recruit more minority teachers and place them in disadvantaged schools have been very successful. But these efforts have been undermined by the high turnover rates of minority teachers—largely because of poor working conditions in their schools. The conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the degree of teachers’ classroom autonomy and input into school decisions—both increasingly important when coupled with accountability pressures.”

Kohli, R. (2018). Behind school doors: The impact of hostile racial climates on urban teachers of color. Urban Education, 53(3), 307–333. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Despite recruitment efforts, teachers of Color are underrepresented and leaving the teaching force at faster rates than their White counterparts. Using Critical Race Theory to analyze and present representative qualitative narratives from 218 racial justice-oriented, urban teachers of color, this article affirms that urban schools—despite serving majority students of Color—operate as hostile racial climates. Color blindness and racial microaggressions manifest as macro and micro forms of racism and take a toll on the professional growth and retention of teachers of Color. These findings suggest a need for institutionalized reform to better support a diverse K-12 teaching force.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Partee, G. L. (2014). Retaining teachers of color in our public schools: A critical need for action. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “As a nation, we need to undertake strategic efforts to retain and increase the number of effective teachers of color in our educator workforce. Teachers of color are significantly underrepresented in the public school population, despite the fact that the number of students of color is growing rapidly. Greater teacher diversity will help ensure that today’s students are prepared to succeed in the future workforce, some in various educator roles. This report, the third in a series, focuses on the need to retain teachers of color—specifically, those who effectively improve student achievement. It explores reasons for low teacher retention rates, and discusses promising retention policies and practices to ensure that the most capable teachers of color enter and remain in our public schools. The aim of this report is to generate a serious dialogue among educators and policymakers, as well as within communities of color and among their representatives, about the actions necessary to appreciably increase the numbers of effective teachers of color in public schools.”

Rogers-Ard, R., Knaus, C. B., Epstein, K. K., & Mayfield, K. (2013). Racial diversity sounds nice; Systems transformation? Not so much: Developing urban teachers of color. Urban Education, 48(3), 451–479. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article argues that economic exclusion, standardized testing, and racially biased definitions of teacher quality continue the exclusion of teachers of color from the urban teaching force. The authors highlight two urban programs designed to address such barriers and situate such efforts within a critical race theory framework that identifies ways urban communities can increase control through local teacher development. The article concludes by presenting a teacher evaluation model that integrates school, district, and university perspectives with urban students, families, community-based organizations, and teacher self-perceptions to redefine teacher effectiveness.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • retaining teachers of color

  • retaining teachers of color + descriptor:“minority group teachers”

  • descriptor:“minority group teachers”

  • teacher minority retention

Databases and Search Engines

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.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

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

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its 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.