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Teach Plus Teacher Leaders Release Recommendations to Attract, Retain, and Develop Teachers of Color in Illinois

April 11, 2019

CHICAGO, IL —In a new policy brief, Equity and Diversity by Design: Recommendations on Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color in Illinois, Teach Plus Illinois Policy Fellows address the lack of diversity in Illinois’ teaching force and recommend a series of policies and practices needed to support and retain a racially- and linguistically-diverse cadre of teachers that reflects the state’s student population. The Fellows, all current teachers in traditional district and charter schools across the state, focus on four key areas of importance to teachers of color: specialized supports, equitable access to leadership opportunities, adequate compensation, and the need for identity-based literacy in Illinois’ K-12 institutions. The Fellows are unveiling their research and recommendations today at the Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly.

“Illinois’ student body is changing.  More than half are students of color. But our teaching force has not kept up with this change,” said Josh Kaufmann, Senior Executive Director of Teach Plus Illinois. “We know that students benefit from teachers that reflect their diversity and are culturally competent, but our state has made little progress in this area so far. This new report highlights practical approaches that districts and the state can use to improve recruitment and retention of teachers of color in Illinois.”

The Fellows’ insights and recommendations stem from a series of focus groups held with Illinois’ teachers of color in the fall of 2018. The focus groups probed the experiences of teachers of color in the classroom, the reasons teachers of color are leaving the profession at rates higher than their white colleagues, and the potential strategies to improve retention.

"In speaking with teachers of color in our state, we heard clearly that they often feel frustrated at being overlooked, overworked, and undervalued," said Keisha Rembert, an 8th grade English and US history teacher at Clifford Crone Middle School in Naperville, Illinois and one of the brief's authors. "For Illinois' teachers of color, the joys of teaching come at a cost. These costs are wide-ranging and affect attrition rates for a valuable segment of our profession."

Findings

  • Teachers of color report a need for specialized supports that take into account their social-emotional well-being as they take on the “invisible tax” that most white teachers never experience.
  • Teachers of color report needing equitable access to leadership opportunities and upward mobility in the school systems they serve.
  • Teachers of color need adequate compensation that accounts for historical and ongoing racial wealth gaps and the additional unpaid work that teachers of color often perform in their schools.
  • Teachers of color report a need for identity-based literacy in the workplace to reduce the extra “invisible tax” placed on teachers of color, and to improve working conditions for faculty and staff of color and the learning conditions for students of color.

"Through our research, we zeroed in on viable solutions to ensure teachers of color enter and stay in the profession to benefit Illinois' students and teachers alike," said Corey Winchester, who teaches US history and sociology of class, gender, and race teacher at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois and is also one of the brief's authors. "These solutions include quality mentoring programs, equitable access to leadership opportunities, and mandatory identity-based competencies for teachers and administrators that would benefit all stakeholders."

Recommendations

  • Implement districtwide mentorship programs, diversity dialogues, and affinity groups that support teachers of color staying in the classroom. 
  • Create pathways to leadership for teachers of color by providing leadership stipends, in-house leadership programs, and ongoing bias and critical race theory training for school administrators.
  • Provide fair and equitable compensation to make teaching a sustainable career path for all teachers.
  • Implement requirements to improve identity-based literacy on behalf of teachers and students of color in K-12 institutions, teacher licensure programs, and the Illinois State Board of Education.

About Teach Plus

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success.  Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students.  teachplus.org