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A growing body of research demonstrates the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion on student achievement and outcomes.
“Students want to see a teacher who looks like them, who understands them,” said Lenichtka “Len” Reed, associate director of human resources for the Tigard-Tualatin School District in suburban Portland, Oregon, and chair of the DEI committee. of the American Association. school staff administrators. “We also know from research that having an educator of color not only benefits students of color, but also white students.”
But while racial and ethnic diversity among public school teachers has increased in recent decades, as a group they are considerably less diverse than their students, according to a December analysis by the Pew Research Center.
So how can districts ensure they hire a diverse range of teachers and provide an accessible path to leadership? Experts recommend these seven best practices.
Train the recruitment team
School district recruiting teams need to understand DEI and why it matters, and they need to be carefully screened and trained with videos and discussions on the topic, said Robert Stewart, assistant superintendent of human resources for Denton Independent School. District outside of Dallas. Stewart is also a member of the AASPA board of directors and past chair of its DEI committee.
Reed said implicit bias training is essential and should be repeated at least once a year. Recruiters need to have a clear understanding of the qualities the district wants in potential candidates and know that increasing ethnic and racial diversity is a priority, she said.
“You have to be very intentional if you want to make a difference,” agreed Stewart.
Focus on recruitment committees
Hiring committees should be as diverse as possible in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc., Stewart said. “You need to be very careful in selecting your hiring committee, and you want to make sure your hiring committee reflects the candidates you hope to attract to your district.”
Reed suggests that school districts should also encourage teachers, and even students and family members, to sit on hiring committees. “You want to have the different stakeholder voices, and then you make that decision based on the totality of voices that were part of the interview process,” she said.
Make DEI a public priority
School districts should make it clear on their websites and social media that DEI is a priority, Stewart said. The goal is “a very professional and well-made website, where we focus on non-discrimination, making sure we reflect the diversity of the community and making sure we are interested in hiring diverse candidates”, did he declare.
Applicants from diverse backgrounds especially welcome it, especially when they have a plethora of choices due to the current teacher shortage, Reed said.
“Good candidates also pass our interviews. They always check if we are a place where they want to work. And if they’re diverse applicants, they’re looking for a school district that values and celebrates the diversity of their organization,” Stewart said.
Look at non-traditional candidates
Due to widespread changes in the job market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a great time to consider candidates who come from other professions and can teach with alternative certifications or licenses, Stewart said.
This lens can be applied to all support staff — including secretaries, custodial staff and others — who want to become educators, Reed said. With the current shortage of teachers, people enrolled in education programs can are sometimes granted emergency teaching licenses that allow them to begin teaching in classrooms with the support of mentors and instructional coordinators, she said.
School districts can also apply for grants to help paraprofessionals pay for education and training, Stewart said.
Adopt strategies of “develop yourself”
The Denton and Tigard-Tualatin school districts both have “build your own” programs that can be great tools for finding future teachers among students, especially when it comes to building a teaching workforce that reflects the community, Reed and Stewart said. These efforts can include things like “teacher-in-training” programs for juniors and seniors, or partnerships with local community colleges and universities.
Teachers can identify students who could make good educators as early as elementary school, if they demonstrate qualities such as kindness, compassion and a desire to help others, Stewart said. “Our best recruiters are our own teachers,” he said.
Since the program began five years ago, Denton ISD has hired more than 10 graduate teachers from the district, Stewart said. At Denton, each school campus has a “build your own” liaison linked to the Human Resources department.
Similarly, the Tigard-Tualatin district employs a “navigator” who works with “connectors” in the various school buildings. Together, they organize rallies and club events to support students interested in becoming future educators, Reed said.
“They really connect with students, especially our BIPOC students, to encourage them to be part of our workforce,” she said.
Provide opportunities for professional growth
Supporting staff affinity spaces for BIPOC, LGBTQ and other employee groups can provide an integrated network of professional support, Reed said.
To ensure that all teachers are supported in their career development, school districts should assign a mentor to each new teacher for three or even five years, Stewart said. “It’s that critical time when they make the decision whether or not to stay in this profession,” he said.
The focus is not on academic support — which should be addressed through continuing professional development — but on support related to classroom challenges, Stewart said.
Conduct culture and engagement surveys
Reed and Stewart said school districts should conduct annual surveys of the “culture” or “engagement” of all employees — and be sure to follow up with actions.
Filtering data by group, such as employees from diverse backgrounds, can provide great insight, Reed said.
“How do the staff feel about the trust between themselves and the building manager and his colleagues? ” she says. “If the culture in the building is that they feel they can’t express themselves and be themselves, if situations of bias or hate speech arise and they’re not supported, that’s will see in the survey.”
Principals can use employee feedback to set goals and action plans, and measure progress in the following year’s survey, Reed said.