Danielle Norton is a multi-classroom leader at Cambridge Early Learning Center, supporting teachers, students and families across four different classrooms.
David Plazas/The Tennessean
Poor perceptions of the teaching profession, a lack of finances for prospective educators and few mentors.
These are a few of the reasons why diverse teacher candidates steer clear of choosing education as a career, according to a report released Tuesday by a group of Nashville educator preparation programs.
The report by the Trailblazer Coalition — led by Lipscomb University, Belmont University and the Nashville Teacher Residency — focuses on how to eliminate barriers to get diverse individuals into the education profession.
The topic of teacher diversity — whether it is more males in the classroom, diverse teachers of color or increasing the number of teachers from rural settings — has been a concern the last couple years for the state.
“Most often the question is why aren’t districts hiring more teachers of color,” said Laura Delgado, a Lipscomb University College of Education member of the Trailblazer Coalition steering committee. “We are saying this is on all of us. They can’t hire diverse teachers if we aren’t recruiting diverse candidates. And we can’t recruit if we don’t have better pipelines.”
The report by the coalition, titled “Fixing the Broken Pipeline: Teacher Diversity and the Classroom,” specifically focuses on teachers of color and lists five keys to getting them into the profession:
- Promoting the positives of teaching
- Promoting more inclusivity in teacher preparation programs
- Creating support for teacher retention and success
- Removing barriers to licensure and testing
- And providing financial support for underrepresented students
Other teacher preparation programs in Middle Tennessee also participated in the report, and Delgado said the issue of teacher diversity isn’t one that can be solved without programs working together to eliminate barriers for students.
“None of us can change this on our own,” she said.
Teacher diversity and its impact on students
Diverse teachers are proven through research to have a positive effect on student outcomes, according to the report. For instance, diverse teachers help impact academics for all students and drive down discipline numbers.
Statewide efforts have focused heavily on teacher workforce diversity, and aim to help districts recruit a more diverse workforce.
Last year, the Tennessee State Board of Education released a Teacher Preparation Report Card that looked at how well educator programs were meeting the needs of the state.
One of the focuses was on student diversity, and Sara Morrison, state board executive director, said she is encouraged by the work being done in universities throughout the state.
“We want to continue to push at both the state and local level to increase the diversity of our educator workforce with an eye towards excellent instruction for every child, every day.”
The Tennessee Department of Education has also put money toward the effort through $200,000 in grants. The money is meant to incentivize strengthening the teacher pipeline and, particularly, increase its diversity.
“We absolutely agree we should work together across the education community to ensure there is greater diversity in the teaching workforce,” said Candice McQueen, Tennessee education commissioner, of the report.
Nashville wants to increase teacher diversity
In Nashville, a report last year by the Metro Human Relations Commission pointed out that over 68 percent of its students identify as African American, Hispanic or Asian, while less than 26 percent of its teachers do.
Delgado said Nashville has been receptive to the work by the coalition, and in the last year, Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph has prioritized the hiring of more teachers of color.
“All students benefit from having diverse teachers in their schools,” Joseph said. “In the spirit of giving every student the best education possible, we should aim to have that diversity reflected in our staff as well.”
Also in recent months, Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry identified more opportunities to create affordable housing for teachers — which can incentivize teachers to enter the profession.
“Often in Nashville you see government leaders convening and calling on institutions and organizations to collaborate and help solve public sector problems,” Barry said. “In this case, it’s the teacher prep programs stepping up to say ‘we all have to own this to make a difference.’”
The report was funded through a grant by Conexión Américas’ Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition.
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