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Nurture the soil while planting the seeds: Three actions for creating inclusive and antiracist environments for Black teachers

Creating inclusive environments for Black teachers
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

By Jameela Conway-Turner and Kyle Fagan
October 28, 2020

Recent events have riveted national attention on issues of systemic racism, social injustice, and other racial inequities. In the wake of nationwide protests and calls for action in response to the untimely deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans, many systems are faced with the need to address issues of racism in America. The education system is no different. The current national context provides additional urgency and complexity to the call for educational equity.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is committed to pursuing equity in our work. For example, the Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance (MAGRA), which REL Midwest facilitates, has been working with state, regional, and local educators in Wisconsin to study and identify effective strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse teacher workforce.

Benefits and challenges of recruiting and retaining Black teachers

Research shows that hiring and retaining Black teachers is a high-leverage strategy that can potentially improve education outcomes among Black students. For instance, studies have found that access to Black teachers can increase Black students’ academic performance, graduation rates, and postsecondary aspirations as well as reduce disciplinary issues (Carver-Thomas, 2018; Gershenson, Hart, Hyman, Lindsay, & Papageorge, 2018; Lindsay & Hart, 2017).

At the same time, Black teachers are more likely than their White colleagues to change schools or leave the profession annually (Carver-Thomas, 2018). Research suggests this disparity could be related to a lack of trust between Black and White colleagues (Jones, 2019), dissatisfaction with school leadership, and inadequate teacher mentoring and induction for Black teachers (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017).

This paradox makes explicit the need for districts and schools to take two parallel actions: (1) increase the diversity of the teaching workforce and (2) create inclusive and antiracist work environments. Said differently, district and school leaders need to nurture the soil as they plant the seeds.

Three strategies to foster inclusive and antiracist teaching environments

The following are three practical actions that educators and district and school administrators can take to support these twin goals and foster an inclusive and antiracist workplace environment.

Make space for the perspectives of Black teachers in decisionmaking. A review of school and teacher survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics found lower levels of minority teacher turnover at schools that provided teachers with more classroom autonomy and more input into school decisionmaking (Ingersoll, May, & Collins, 2017).

Support and participate in implicit bias and cultural competency training to strengthen relationships among faculty and between faculty and students. Researchers examining the intersection of race, relational trust, and teacher retention in Wisconsin public schools found that teachers need guidance to work effectively with educators from diverse backgrounds. Implicit bias and cultural competency training focused on both teacher-teacher relationships and teacher-student relationships can improve retention for Black teachers in general and for White teachers in schools with diverse faculty and student bodies (Jones, 2019 [1,344 KB PDF icon ]).

Explore more strategies

Webinar: Confronting Bias and Building Trust: Strategies to Create Inclusive Environments for Black Teachers (December 2, 2020, 3:00–4:15 p.m. Central Time). Register now!

Video: Creating Inclusive and Antiracist Workplaces for Teachers of Color (coming fall 2020!)

Support and participate in mentorships (mentor and mentee) with Black teachers. Comprehensive induction programs, such as matching early career teachers with veteran mentor teachers, can improve retention among novice Black teachers. Other evidence-based induction supports include providing coaching from experienced teachers and time to collaborate with other faculty (Carver-Thomas, 2018).

Learn more about MAGRA and REL Midwest’s equity work

Throughout the past three years, the Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance has been partnering with state, regional, and local educators to study and improve educational outcomes among Black students, with a focus on Wisconsin. The following are some key projects the alliance has undertaken in the pursuit of this goal:

Visit the MAGRA page to learn more about the alliance’s projects, research, and resources. Other ongoing projects include coaching for Evanston/Skokie School District 65 on the use of culturally responsive instruction to improve outcomes for students of color and students with disabilities.


Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain Black teachers. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from

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 (Advances in race and ethnicity in education, volume 6), pp. 159–184. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.

Dixon, R. D., Griffin, A. R., & Teoh, M. B. (2019). If you listen, we will stay: Why teachers of color leave and how to disrupt teacher turnover. Washington, DC: The Education Trust & Teach Plus. Retrieved from

Gershenson, S., Hart, C., Hyman, J., Lindsay, C., & Papageorge, N. W. (2018). The long-run impacts of same-race teachers (No. w25254). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from [549 KB PDF icon]

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

Jones, C. J. (2019). Race, relational trust, and teacher retention in Wisconsin schools: A Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Research Partnership (WEERP) evaluation brief. Milwaukee, WI: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Retrieved from [1,344 KB PDF icon]

Lindsay, C. A., & Hart, C. M. D., (2017). Exposure to same-race teachers and student disciplinary outcomes for Black students in North Carolina. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(3), 485–510. Retrieved from

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Author information

Jameela Conway-Turner Staff Picture

Jameela Conway-Turner, Ph.D.

MAGRA Research Liaison | REL Midwest

Kyle Fagan Staff Picture

Kyle Fagan, Ph.D.

MAGRA Partnership Facilitator | 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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