The Key to Supporting, Retaining New Educators of Color
Written By: Danielle Nadler
The American education system underwent a historic shift just six years ago. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the majority of public school students were, for the first time, no longer white. And this majority-minority shift has continued to progress since. Studies predict that by 2029 students of color will make up 56 percent of the U.S. public school population.
It makes sense that the changing face of the student population mirrors the changes to the nation’s citizenry. But what’s troubling is that, for most students of color, the people they interact with nearly every day, do not look like them.
The demographics of the teaching profession have seen little change, with the vast majority of teachers being white and female. The potential harm of this mismatch is illustrated by research showing that Black students benefit from having even one teacher who looks like them in elementary school.
The good news? There’s a group of powerhouse Virginia educators who are working to turn the tide, to recruit and retain teachers of color.
One of those educators focused on solving this problem is Dr. LaRon Scott, executive director of the Minority Educator Recruitment, Retention and Equity Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Dr. Scott recalls, as he was pursuing his master’s degree in special education at VCU, he was one of the few students of color in the program — and the only Black man. “It’s no surprise because we see across the nation that educators of color are disproportionately represented in the field,” he said on the VCU Minority Education Center’s podcast series Equity. “In the field of special education, it’s even crazier to think that representation is just not there.”
The key is providing men and women entering the teaching field support and a safe space that reassures them that they belong there and that they’re not alone.
When it comes to providing that extra support, Dr. Scott points to peer mentorships as the key to retaining teachers.
One program Dr. Scott supports is called REACH Virginia, which works to recruit, support and retain new educators through a comprehensive mentoring program. Started by two retired educators, REACH has created a network of educators in 14 Virginia school systems. They connect teachers new to the professional with experienced mentors, all with the goal of preparing the next generation of teachers.
“Mentorship is a very important key,” Dr. Scott said. “Yes, I did have mentors, but did they look like me? No. I am blessed to have really great people around me and folks who supported me along my career path, but I was always missing a black male role model, in particular who was in special education who was able to guide me through the process.”
He added, “Nearly 50% of public schools don’t have a black teacher, let alone a black male teacher. That’s a problem.”
Dr. Scott will share his passion — and his strategy — for diversifying the education workforce at a special virtual meeting of REACH Virginia, from 10 a.m.-noon April 15. Those interested in attending may email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about REACH Virginia at reachva.org.
Danielle Nadler is the Director of Communication and Strategy at the Loudoun Education Foundation.