In an op-ed published by The Seattle Times, University of Washington College of Education Dean Mia Tuan, along with Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Tammy Campbell and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau, argues that investing in a more racially diverse educator workforce must be the top priority in disrupting systemic racism in education.
“We know that investing in the recruitment and retention of outstanding teachers of color is a successful strategy for combating racism, but our state and society must do far more before our teaching workforce will reflect the students they serve,” the co-authors write.
“This matters because research unequivocally demonstrates that students thrive when they see themselves in and can relate to their teachers. Among the many social and academic benefits that students of color stand to gain, we know that Black children are more likely to be placed in gifted education programs and less likely to drop out of high school if they have a Black teacher. The inherent academic and cultural excellence of students of color is more likely to be recognized and fostered by educators of color — representation matters a lot.”
The authors lay out three steps for creating an educator workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our nation’s student population.
“First, we must remove the financial barriers that prevent many people of color from entering the profession,” they write. “People of color graduate from college with significantly more debt than their white peers, which can make the decision to enter a modestly compensated profession, like public education, a daunting prospect even to those who feel the call to teach.”
Second, they call for all teacher candidates to be prepared to enact culturally sustaining teaching practices when they enter the profession.
“It’s not enough to simply recruit a more diverse pool of teachers,” they write. “All aspiring teachers must enter the workforce knowing that the success of students of color is central to the success of their own teaching. We must intentionally prepare future teachers to uplift the strengths and knowledge that our students of color bring to the classroom by embedding this experience into all teacher education programs.”
Finally, they note the need to support teachers of color during their critical first years in the profession so that these educators remain in the teaching workforce for the long term.