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How to Sustain Black Educators

New book emphasizes need to advance beyond workforce diversity efforts focused purely on recruitment and retention
Teacher helping students

Much research has highlighted the positive impact of teacher diversity on students’ academic outcomes and well-being and yet only 6% of public school teachers in the United States are Black, compared with 15% of students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In fact, the number of Black teachers in schools is in decline and efforts to move the dial have proved elusive

In a new book and accompanying webinar from Harvard Education Press, #BlackEducators Matter: The Experiences of Black Teachers in an Anti-Black World, editor and contributor Darrius Stanley urges school and district leaders to confront what he describes as “hostile, chilly, racialized climates” in schools and to reconsider diversity efforts that focus solely on recruitment and retention of Black educators. Instead, Stanley, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Minnesota, believes that the emphasis should be on intentionally designing schools that humanize and sustain Black educators and celebrate “their unique histories, experiences, and dreams.”

With that vision in mind, Stanley, a former middle school educator and leader himself, also recommends that school and district leaders:

  • Ask themselves what they can do to make their schools places where Black educators, students, and families can thrive.
  • Be mindful of practices and policies that disadvantage Black students and educators, including the “overrepresentation of Black youth in special education, underrepresentation of Black educators in leadership and decision-making roles, and the over disciplining of Black students.”
  • Resist deficit frameworks, such as the overuse of Black educators as disciplinarians.
  • Ensure school board members, who play a vital role in shaping and executing policies and hiring procedures, receive anti-racism training and work to “generate policies that center Black educator well-being and sustainment."
  • Create programs and avenues for Black educators to access a variety of district leadership and decision-making jobs.
  • Co-create schools that are shaped by liberating pedagogies and practices. 

Some of the trends seen among Black teachers today, including their underrepresentation, are the result of a long legacy of exclusion, according to Stanley. As a result, he encourages policymakers to keep history and race in mind when creating new educational policies. 

Stanley also encourages policymakers to:

  • Probe the effects of previous policies and reform efforts and their consequences for Black educators.
  • Listen and engage with Black educators’ perspectives and life experiences rather than making them the “objects of reform or other efforts to diversify the teacher workforce.”  
  • Institutionalize engagement practices with Black school communities.
  • Remove any racial bias or barriers to entry in teacher certification and licensure. (An entire chapter in the book, written by Andrene Castro and Ejana Bennett, is titled: Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Teacher Certification and Licensure Policies.) 

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