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Actionable district strategies to build a diverse teacher workforce and foster educational equity

Actionable strategies to build diverse teacher workforce
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

By Maggi Ibis
February 22, 2021

A diverse teacher workforce can help promote culturally responsive instruction, equitable opportunities, and academic gains for all students. To increase educator diversity and realize these benefits, districts must take intentional and strategic action to recruit and develop the conditions to retain teachers of different races/ethnicities and backgrounds (Pitts, 2005 [440 KB PDF icon ]; Van Roekel, 2008 [202 KB PDF icon ]; Villegas & Davis, 2008).

Since July 2020, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest has provided Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin with in-depth coaching on the essential components to foster educational equity through a diverse teacher workforce. The project, which is part of the work of the Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance (MAGRA), leverages REL Midwest’s partnership with the Wisconsin Urban Leadership Institute [3,079 KB PDF icon ] and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to promote strategies that can improve a district’s capacity to hire and retain Black teachers.

Benefits of a Black teacher

13% increased likelihood of going to college when Black students have a Black teacher in grades K–3

39% decreased high school dropout rate when the most underserved Black male students have a Black teacher in grades 3–5 (Gershenson, et al., 2018 [549 KB PDF icon ])

REL Midwest researchers Tammie Causey-Konaté, Ph.D., and Etai Mizrav are leading this work. So far, they have held three coaching sessions, along with a series of meetings, to guide Racine district leaders in the development of a culture of continuous improvement to support the recruitment and retention of Black teachers. This process includes identifying problems of practice and conducting root-cause analyses. In addition, the REL Midwest team has shared MAGRA’s recent webinar on cultivating inclusive environments for Black teachers and the related video on how retaining Black teachers improves student outcomes to boost the opportunity for adult learning and development.

Best practices for building a culture of continuous improvement and a diverse teacher workforce

REL Midwest’s coaching sessions have focused on helping Racine district staff build a more comprehensive approach to their work on the School-Based Teacher Academies of Racine (STAR) Residency Program. This program supports the recruitment of diverse teachers through a partnership between the Racine Unified School District and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The initiative serves as a vehicle through which Dr. Causey-Konaté and Mizrav have conducted coaching sessions on developing strategies to improve the district’s recruitment practices and engagement with teachers of color.

The following describes three best practices for embarking on a journey of continuous improvement, whether to build a diverse teacher workforce or address another problem of practice:

  • Explore the research. Before unpacking Racine’s problem of practice and digging into the data, REL Midwest researchers facilitated discussions with district leaders to take stock of recent research on workforce diversification, including challenges and interventions. This process encourages district leaders to consider the local context and identify areas for growth related to inclusive teacher recruitment and retention practices in their own community.
  • Identify the root causes linked to the problem. Dr. Causey-Konaté and Mizrav next supported Racine district leaders in conducting root-cause analyses to generate problem statements about the barriers to building a more diverse workforce. District leaders quickly saw the importance of these exercises and engaged a diverse group of stakeholders to participate, including members of Racine’s leadership team, human resources staff, and special education professionals. “This work has assisted us in identifying the root of the true data outcomes that are affecting our system of recruitment and retainment of teachers of color,” says Jill Ries, Ph.D., director of performance effectiveness & data for the district.
  • Examine and interpret the data. Dr. Causey-Konaté and Mizrav then walked Racine district leaders through the process of linking the problem statements they had generated to district data on educator recruitment and retention. This step, supported by the team’s use of a tool on grounding diversifying efforts in data, is an essential component of continuous improvement work. By incorporating the use of data into the process, the Racine team can develop strategies that improve and build on those the district is already using to engage with diverse teachers through the STAR Residency Program. “The use of the tool itself is an insightful and paramount procedure that leads to deep data understandings and leads to quality analysis,” says Dr. Ries. “It has served to give us uncovered data and uncovered gaps that may have gone unnoticed without the depth of the investigation.”

Next steps in Racine

Although initially the work was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, REL Midwest coaches have used the available time to prioritize the quality and sustainability of the continuous improvement work taking place in Racine. Dr. Causey-Konaté and Mizrav noted that practitioners and leaders in the district exude an urgency and eagerness to continue the work in 2021, which involves mapping out an action plan, selecting strategies to improve the STAR Residency Program, and integrating those strategies into the initiative’s current practices.

>> For more on teacher workforce diversification, read this blog post on creating antiracist environments for Black teachers.

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Author information

Maggi Ibis Staff Picture

Maggi Ibis

Research Associate | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

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