Seen, Heard, Valued: Listening to the Leadership of Teachers of Color - Digital Promise

Seen, Heard, Valued: Listening to the Leadership of Teachers of Color

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February 12, 2021 | By

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” – Shirley Chisholm

To begin to address the teacher of color shortage, Digital Promise engaged teachers of color to lead the development of solutions aimed at improving teachers of color recruitment and retention. This report provides a summation of those efforts.

In December 2020, Digital Promise convened more than 900 teachers, district leaders, charter leaders, researchers, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous organization leaders to reimagine the recruitment and retention of teachers of color.

The National Teachers of Color Showcase created seats at the table for stakeholders who are typically excluded from decision-making that affects what teachers of color experience on a daily basis: teachers of color themselves.

Members of our Teachers of Color advisory council shared their expertise and presented co-designed solutions to address equitable hiring practices, professional advancement opportunities, mental health supports, sustaining anti-racist school cultures, and more.

Today, we are releasing “Inclusive Innovation: Increasing Recruitment and Retention of Teachers of Color”—a report summarizing observations and learnings from our teacher of color design studios and the culminating showcase.

Below, Malliron Hodge, director of community collaboration and design, offers highlights, insights, and reflections on the report and partnerships with teachers of color and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations across the country.

Why did you host a convening?

This convening was like no other convening focused on teachers of color recruitment and retention. Our number one goal was to center the convening in the creative ideas and concepts developed by teachers of color. We chose to cultivate a space where superintendents, district leaders, charter leaders, higher education leaders, community members, policymakers, and educator leaders could listen and learn from the concepts developed by teachers of color across the country, led by our Teacher of Color Advisory Council. In addition, we wanted to showcase the work of BIPOC-led organizations who specialize in the teachers of color pipeline.

We also recognized the importance of inviting national partners who are actively engaged in this work. We were proud to present the convening with our host partners, the Council for Chief State School Officers, the Center for Black Educator Development, the State Higher Education Executive Officers, and UnidosUS. Each partner invited their constituents and members who are critical partners within states.

What concepts did the teachers present at the convening?

Throughout 2020, we worked with our Teacher of Color Advisory Council to co-host design studios in their region to bring together teachers of color; to create solutions that would have the most impact, we created a space where teachers could brainstorm and develop ideas together. From those design studios came 12 design concepts that were showcased at the convening, presented by our Teacher of Color Advisory Council. To inform district and charter leaders of the need and the feasibility of the ideas, each design concept included an overview of the challenge, high-level components of the solution, and potential outcomes.

Some examples include:

  • Focused Mental Health Supports
  • High School-Focused Student Teaching Courses
  • Teachers as Policymakers
  • Veteran Teachers of Color Mentors
  • Community-Centered Alternative Licensing Programs
  • Intentional Anti-Racist Recruitment

In addition to showcasing the design concepts, the convening featured 15 BIPOC-led organizations who have developed programs, tools, and models to address the teacher of color pipeline. BIPOC-led organizations traditionally are underfunded and underrecognized, and our goal was to celebrate and recognize their critical and necessary leadership in this work.

What do you hope convening participants took away with them?

We hope participants learned the value and importance of intentionally creating space with those who have not historically been included or invited to the table. The people in proximity to the challenges need to lead the creation of ideas and solutions.

What do we need to create impactful change in the teacher of color pipeline?

We need more investment from funders to support BIPOC-led organizations leading the work and Inclusive Innovation models that create spaces for teachers of color, district leaders, community members, BIPOC-led orgs, and researchers to work together to develop solutions to meet the needs of their districts.

What are you focusing on next?

Our next steps include making connections between BIPOC-led organizations and district leaders and charter leaders. Additionally, we are working with League of Innovative Schools districts to pilot the design concepts in their region.

To learn more about our efforts to co-create pipeline solutions with teachers of color, explore our new report, “Inclusive Innovation: Increasing Recruitment and Retention of Teachers of Color.”

To read about the data motivating our work, refer to the literature review, “Pipeline and Retention of Teachers of Color: Systems and Structures Impeding Growth and Sustainability in the United States.”

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