At Landed, we understand that if we want stronger schools, then we need to make sure that we are upholding the educators who are working tirelessly to improve outcomes for students. We aim to support school districts’ efforts in retaining their staff, especially those from diverse backgrounds, through our down payment program and homebuyer education and guidance.
One challenge schools face in providing a consistent, high-quality educational experience for students (especially in diverse metropolitan areas) is ensuring that students are receiving instruction and support from educators of color who reflect the diversity of the communities the students come from. While districts are developing creative pathways for bringing more diverse individuals into the teaching profession, retaining these educators continues to be a challenge.
To learn more about this challenge, I chatted with Dr. Travis Bristol, who is an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education. We discussed his research on school district policies and practices aimed at recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators of color and on uncovering what role housing solutions play in these policies and practices.
Why do you think school districts are having a hard time attracting and retaining teachers of color?
Teachers of color are, on average, concentrated in the most challenging schools, in which the working conditions are not optimal for teaching.
So many district leaders have this belief that if we simply get teachers of color to come and teach students in the most challenging schools, then that will automatically make those students perform better. Now clearly there is some convincing evidence that teachers of color – black teachers, in particular – increase the learning outcomes for black students, but because conditions are so challenging, the conditions are not ripe for high-quality teaching. Teachers of color leave at a higher rate than their white peers because they are concentrated in the most challenging schools. So there is definitely a retention piece that can inform recruitment efforts.
In the Bay Area, the cost of living is not at all adequate relative to what a teacher makes, and this continues to serve as a barrier for teachers of color entering the profession. The high cost makes it increasingly challenging for any teacher saddled with debt from college… we have this legacy of policies that have privileged some versus others, and in many ways, this legacy continues to influence why we see a lack of teachers of color reflected in the teaching profession.
What do you feel is the role of school districts in educators’ financial wellness?
I think school districts and teacher preparation programs have not done a good job of building teachers’ financial IQ and helping them understand how a path to teaching may not necessarily make you wealthy but could potentially allow you to live a comfortable life. For example, one thing that teacher preparation programs and districts could communicate is how teaching in a Title 1 school, you can get thousands of dollars forgiven off of your loans, and if you’re teaching in those schools continually then your loans don’t accrue interest.
There could be all these programs that districts could clearly articulate to persons who have not had families that developed their financial IQ. Districts could do some of that work.
How do you think housing instability for teachers impacts students of color?
There are fiscal costs for a school and for school districts when a teacher leaves. You have to spend time trying to fill the position, rather than thinking about creating professional development initiatives for existing teachers. So there’s a cost to the child’s school and potentially their experience in that school.
There are also some costs that we can’t measure, like the attachment that children of color have to people of color who act as role models for them. There are some costs in people power, being devoted to trying to find new teachers, and in students who are losing people who have helped them and gave them tools to imagine the possibility of life as someone who is college educated. Those are some of the real costs when we have housing markets that are not stable and that do not allow the very people who we need to stay to teach, work, and live.
Do you have any thoughts to share with school districts in high-cost areas that are looking to diversify their workforce?
I think that you can’t solve this issue if it’s only one person working in human resources. It has to be a coordinated effort from school districts working with local government and local developers and local banks; putting their heads together to think about programs and initiatives that allow people of color – who we know have the capacity to increase learning for our students of color – the opportunity to live and work in the very places where they want to live and work.
It has to be a coordinated effort across multiple stakeholders to address this problem. Until that happens, people will be creating diversity programs that won’t bear any fruit.
The contents of this Q&A do not necessarily reflect the views of Landed, Inc. and are shared for educational purposes. To learn more about Dr. Bristol’s research, please visit his faculty profile.
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