Prioritizing recruiting and retaining teachers of color
Guest Column by Randy Ward
March 6, 2023
In nearly 50 years of working in education, I’ve heard very few ideas that are as straightforward as this: Our students benefit if they have a teacher or school leader who looks like them.

In California, about 61 percent of teachers are white, while only 23 percent of students are. Over half of all students are Latino, but only about a fifth of teachers are. National data released in December showed that the teaching profession grew even whiter.
And while research shows us that students of color benefit academically from having a teacher of the same race, that’s pretty hard to achieve if most teachers are white, but most students are not.
One study found that having just one Black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income Black boys’ chances of dropping out of high school by nearly 40 percent. And a 2019 report found that students at schools led by a person of color scored significantly higher on state tests.
To chip away at this problem, we can start with how we think about recruiting teachers.
At Teach For America, we’re California’s largest provider of teachers of color, and we use a recruitment model designed to attract candidates whose desire to become an educator aligns to sincerely held values of inclusion, equity and social justice.
And recruitment, of course, like any serious effort, must consider money. Candidates of color often carry more student loan debt than their white peers, making the costs associated with entering education not exactly enticing.
If we’re serious about helping students by getting a teacher who looks like them at the front of their classroom, we’ve got to find ways to help with those costs. That can happen through grants, stipends or partnerships.
And we want to keep these teachers and leaders teaching and leading. In San Diego, we’re using a leadership engine — by providing additional training and support to educators, we’re hoping to increase the number of school leaders who reflect the student population of San Diego. We’re also piloting a leadership development ladder that helps teachers experience professional growth to help them remain engaged in their own development.
Recruiting and retaining teachers of color isn’t difficult to wrap your head around. It’s a straightforward solution — and it can help our students. We should work together to make it a priority. I hope you’ll join me.
Dr. Randolph Ward is the executive director of Teach For America San Diego, a nonprofit that prepares diverse, talented individuals to lead in our K-12 schools.
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