Building a teacher workforce that is reflective of our students

“As a community we agree that every child, regardless of race, income, ability or home language deserves to have the very best public education possible. We are not there yet.”

Those are the words of Interim Boston Public Schools Superintendent John McDonough in his introduction to the 2014 report “Opportunity and Equity: Enrollment and Outcomes for Black and Latino Males in Boston Public Schools.” Though he was speaking of the school district, we would say the same about the charter and Catholic schools. For decades, schools and community organizations have worked to address the achievement gaps that persist across this nation. Throughout the city, we are expanding opportunities for pre-K and extended learning time. These are necessary – but insufficient – strategies in a larger coordinated effort to address inequities. We also must hire and retain effective teachers of color. Each of our sectors has explored tactics to significantly increase the number of high quality teachers of color in our schools. Now we are joining forces to advance this critical work.

As we see it, teachers in Boston’s district, charter and Catholic schools should reflect the students and communities they serve. Some 87 percent of students in BPS are members of an ethnic or racial minority with charter and Catholic schools serving a similar percentage of students of color. A recent report by the Center for American Progress summarizes the tremendous effect a black, Latino/a, or Asian teacher can have on his or her students:

“Teachers of color provide real-life examples to minority students of future career paths… And while there are effective teachers of many races, teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for engaging students of similar backgrounds.”

It has been forty years since Judge . Arthur Garrity’s 1974 desegregation order called on BPS to achieve and maintain a faculty that was at least 25 percent black and 10 percent “other minority,” noting the importance of a workforce that reflects the students it serves. Still, across all education sectors in Boston, the applicant pool of teachers of color is relatively small. As a city, we must look for ways to diversify the workforce. This includes encouraging our students to join the profession and attracting strong out-of-state candidates.

This problem is not limited to any sector, and neither will be its solution. Through our Compact, Boston’s district, charter, and Catholic schools held our first-ever joint recruitment fair focused on teachers of color this past Monday. This was the first of many steps to making developing, recruiting and retaining educators of color a citywide priority.

Ross Wilson, Shannah Varon, and Chris Flieger are co-chairs of the Boston Compact.