A large body of research, including a detailed report commissioned by Digital Promise in 2020, points to the importance of diversifying the teacher workforce across the U.S. Too often, though, state- or district-level teacher workforce diversity initiatives are applied in broad strokes and do not center the experiences of teachers of color in the locations where they are being implemented.
Understanding that teachers of color in a given district or charter network are uniquely qualified to define challenges and to ideate and iterate on solutions regarding their local teacher of color pipelines, the Center for Inclusive Innovation at Digital Promise is working to support a cohort of six local education agencies (LEAs) to design and implement locally contextualized strategies for recruiting and retaining teachers of color using its Inclusive Innovation model. The model intentionally prioritizes the perspectives, experiences, and ideas of those who are most impacted by a challenge. As such, it provides a valuable framework for engaging teachers of color directly in researching and designing solutions.
LEA-developed initiatives included numerous teacher of color affinity groups, a teacher of color mentoring program, a mentoring program for Black male students, a Grow-Your Own program for paraprofessional staff to become teachers, and multicultural fairs. Several key themes emerged from the LEAs based on what they had discovered by participating in the Inclusive Innovation process. One theme is that centering the voices of teachers of color —first, foremost, and throughout the design and implementation process—is of paramount importance. Another theme that arose addresses how focusing on conditions related to teacher of color retention can pay subsequent dividends with recruitment by creating a culture where teachers of color want to work. Additionally, participants revealed how the design and details matter when creating events to foster teacher of color recruitment and retention, and they discussed how receiving regular coaching from an external partner has been tremendously helpful with accountability and idea generation.
For LEAs beginning their own teacher of color pipeline work, as well as for partner organizations and anyone interested in proof of concept of the Inclusive Innovation process, a great deal can be learned from the experiences of these LEAs.