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Increasing Diversity in the Teacher Workforce: The Importance and Potential Impact of Authentic Change

By David Stevens and Jason Greenberg Motamedi | February 8th, 2019


David Stevens
David Stevens a manager of research, evaluation, and assessment at Education Northwest, has over 10 years of experience helping practitioners and policymakers use data in their improvement efforts.

A school’s culture is perceptible in many ways—how visitors are greeted, the artwork on the walls, the languages heard in the hallways and classrooms.

Beyond these tangible factors, there is simply the way a school makes you feel. Do you feel welcomed? Do you feel like you belong?

For schools that seek to create a positive, welcoming culture for all students and staff members, it is essential to have an educator workforce that reflects the diversity of the students and communities they serve.

Driven by research evidence, common sense, and practical experience, many schools are working toward this goal. But one practical step is often overlooked: implementing human resources (HR) policies and practices that actually promote—rather than deter—the hiring and retention of a diverse teaching staff.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
Jason Greenberg Motamedi is a senior advisor at Education Northwest. In addition to leading REL Northwest's work with the Washington State Vibrant Teaching Force Alliance, he manages a variety of research and evaluation projects—designing evaluation strategies and instruments and collecting data through focus groups, interviews, and classroom observations.

REL Northwest recently produced a set of meeting materials for the Washington State Vibrant Teaching Force Alliance that offers evidence-based practices across the staffing continuum, from recruitment to hiring, onboarding, and retention. Some of the main takeaways are:

  • Districts that effectively recruit teachers of color often use data-driven, targeted strategies to inform their outreach efforts.
  • Districts that effectively select and hire teachers of color often publish vacancy notices early in the process and hire early in the process.
  • Districts that effectively onboard and retain teachers of color offer competitive compensation and benefits.

Why Diversity Matters

There is a large body of research that demonstrates "the important educational benefits—cognitive, social, and emotional—for all students who interact with classmates from different backgrounds, cultures, and orientations to the world."1

In addition, for students of color, having a teacher of the same race or ethnicity may increase test scores and reduce the likelihood of disciplinary issues.2 Students of color also benefit from higher teacher expectations and from seeing members of their own race/ethnicity as role models in positions of authority.3

Further, research has shown that when a school prioritizes diversity and strives to create authentic cultural change, the quality of both teaching and learning improves, benefitting everyone.

Creating a Culture Of Diversity

Implementing effective HR policies and practices is essential for increasing the diversity of the educator workforce, but it is only a beginning. To foster real change, a commitment to diversity must be embedded in the school and district culture.

Here, too, HR professionals have a critical role to play. Educator recruitment and staffing are often viewed as the responsibility of the HR department, administrators, and small departmental hiring committees. HR professionals can not only ensure that a diverse group is involved in recruitment and hiring, they can also help shape a district culture that is inclusive, supportive, and transparent.

From preparation, recruitment, and hiring to welcoming and mentoring, everyone has a role in creating a school community that values diversity, encourages educators to learn from one another, ties the school to the community, and fosters teacher retention.

Ultimately, diversity is inseparable from community. We’re all in it together.


1Wells, A. S., Fox, L., & Cordova-Cobo, D. (2016). How racially diverse schools and classrooms can benefit all students. Education Digest, 82(1), 17–24. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from https://tcf.org/
2Goldhaber, D., Theobald, R., & Tien, C. (2015). The theoretical and empirical arguments for diversifying the teacher workforce: A review of the evidence (CEDR Working Paper No. 2015-9). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Bothell, Center for Education Data & Research. http://eric.ed.gov/
3Villegas, A. M., & Irvine, J. J. (2010). Diversifying the teaching force: An examination of major arguments. The Urban Review, 42(3), 175-192. https://eric.ed.gov/