Recently in The 74, Daniel Velasco wrote a piece calling for the education community to do more to recruit and retain young Latino teachers. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
We are losing an entire generation of teachers of color, at a time when the diversity of our students continues to grow. The real measure of whether or not we are able to build back our education system from this pandemic will lie in whether or not we are able to recruit and retain more Black, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and indigenous educators in the years to come.
For the educator workforce to mirror the rich diversity of our student population, the U.S would need to add 1 million new teachers of color to our nation’s schools by 2030. To do this, we need to reimagine how we identify, recruit and retain teachers in general.
Many talented and aspiring teachers will go through rigorous teacher preparation programs, but never fully enter the profession because of outdated state licensure exams which put teachers of color at a disadvantage. We must be looking at new on-ramps to the teaching profession, such as teacher residency programs and alternative certification programs and at different measures for determining who is ready to enter the classroom.
Additionally, like most professions, preparation can come with a high price tag especially for aspiring teachers that come from low-income families. School districts, city and state elected officials along with civic leaders, such as local credit unions, and employers across the country should find creative ways to help make teaching a pathway to the middle class. This should include helping offset the costs of teacher preparation programs through stipends and debt forgiveness for new teachers along with early-career homeownership programs, career coaching and professional development plans that span 10 years.
Every school district in America should also have a justice, diversity, equity and inclusion plan with concrete strategies on how they plan to diversify their educator workforce; and more specifically, how they intend to identify, hire and retain more teachers of color — with a specific focus on Latino teachers in communities with growing or predominant Latino student populations. These strong initiatives lead to a sense of belonging that can only be achieved when staffing imperatives are implemented consistently over time and it’s that sense of belonging that provides the psychological safety for diverse educators to see themselves thriving professionally in spaces not historically built for them. Districts should also set up advisory committees, made up of teachers of color, who can provide concrete feedback to school leaders on the challenges they face within their local schools.
Finally, school districts must do more to retain the few teachers of color that are already in the profession. Giving teachers opportunities to grow, assume leadership roles, and get paid a fair wage are the foundational steps to signaling we’re committed to this ideal.
As we navigate the third year of the pandemic, we cannot stand to lose more educators of color. This is the time for every state and every school district to prioritize educator diversity, because the future of teaching — and the future of our students — depends on it.