School Leaders Can Help Reduce Minority Teacher Turnover

One of the biggest problems in the United States’ public education system is the sheer amount of turnover – a near-epidemic which is harming our students and wasting valuable and limited resources on the training and evaluation of teachers who aren’t sticking in the profession. An example of the harm it’s having on our student populace lies in data compiled by Charlotte Mecklenburg which chronicles a sharp decline in student math achievement every time an effective teacher leaves the job or the profession entirely.

The problem becomes even more troublesome when you consider the departure of minority teachers. As those of minority are sorely underrepresented in our public schools’ faculties, to begin with, the loss of a minority teacher can serve as a major loss for minority students who identify with a teacher who may look like them instead of the vast norm of white middle-class teachers on public educational dockets. 

Why minority teachers are so important

Data points surrounding the pairing of minority teachers with minority students show a direct increase in the exertion of personal effort in the classroom, a much better chance for minority students to gain acceptance into gifted-and-talented programs, and a greater likelihood that students from underrepresented backgrounds will complete high school and enroll in higher education. These data points have led to a concerted effort to add to the ratio of minority teachers in public school education. 

However, the increase in minority teachers hasn’t been sharp enough to weather the impact of turnover.    While strategies to diversify the teaching workplace such as recruitment efforts focused on colleges which are doing a good job of graduating students of color have been implemented by many school districts, such recruitment efforts are costly and aren’t feasible when budgets are taken into account. Thus, it’s critical that we shift our focus to retaining minority teachers, putting the onus on our school leaders to make the efforts necessary to do so.

How school leaders can reduce the turnover of minority teachers

One of the key things principals can do to reduce the overall turnover of minority teachers is to consult with minority teachers about what administrative practices they feel will help foster a work environment they can thrive and be happy working in. School leaders must work alongside their minority teachers to identify any cultural dissonance within the institution which could indirectly promote race-based stereotypes or serve as a counterbalance to inclusivity efforts.

In addition to this, school leaders have to show their minority teaching staff members that there are equal pathways for them to enter leadership positions and enter them with the same preparation as anyone else. It is up to our school leaders to give appropriate opportunities for advancement to the entirety of their staffs, rather than leaning on minority teachers to be liaisons for minority students.

A safe, inclusive work environment will help reduce teacher turnover as a whole, but it could have a particularly huge impact on minority teacher turnover if school leaders cultivate the right working conditions and policymakers help to give school leaders the tools to ensure such working conditions are in place.

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