First year teacher Greg Butler (cq) gives some special attention to second- grader Victoria Broadus (cq) during an exercise on suffixes Butler teaches in the same room at Hawthorne Elementary where he was a first grader. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Adriane Jaeckle)

Dante Little, a former public middle school teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, was one of only a few black males teaching in the city. But then he reached his breaking point. While he was administering a state test, the assistant principal came in to ask if all the students had handed in their cell phones. Even though they told him they had, he wasn’t satisfied and began to search and frisk each of them to be sure. According to Little, the students were treated that way regularly. “This isn’t a prison,” he said before he decided to quit. “I’m just done.”

There’s a national shortage of teachers of color, and as Dante Little’s experience highlights, it has as much or more to do with retention than recruitment. Teachers of color leave the profession at a higher rate than white teachers, with most reporting dissatisfaction with working conditions, like the criminalization of students, as the main reason.

“We need to fix and change the way schools are run and organized,” Richard Ingersoll,a University of Pennsylvania professor and expert on teacher workplace issues, said at panel discussion at the 2017 Education Writers Association National Seminar on June 1, “Finding and Keeping Teachers of Color.”

The vast majority of initiatives focus on recruiting teachers of color, which has been relatively successful, particularly in hard to staff low-income schools. But those schools are hard to staff for a reason – conditions are difficult when resources are scarce. Without focusing on improving the school conditions that will keep teachers from leaving, investment on recruitment will be lost.

He said the problem is like a leaky bucket.

“We need to take some mud and fix some of the working conditions to repair the holes in the bottom of the bucket.”

Institutional Racism

Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association (NEA), told the panel participants that NEA has committed $7 million to increasing equity, opportunity and access for all public students, and that part of that is to address institutional racism that not only diminishes learning opportunities but creates negative working conditions for teachers of color.

“In 2015 the delegates to NEA’s national convention voted to commit NEA to taking on and dismantling institutional racism. We knew that attracting and retaining teachers of color had to be an integral part of our work to ensure racial justice in education ,” she said. “We’ve also worked very hard to help craft and pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to increase access and build equity for students of color and to empower educators.”

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Source: NEA Today / CINDY LONG