Study suggests Tennessee should recruit teachers of color

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new study by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance suggests schools in the state should do more to hire and support teachers of color.

The study looked at turnover and retention for Tennessee teachers over a five-year period beginning in 2011. It found that black teachers were no more likely to leave the profession than white teachers, but they were more likely to transfer schools. Turnover was especially high when black teachers were racially isolated, the study found.

“There’s lots of evidence that teacher turnover is bad for schools … and bad for student achievement,” said Jason Grissom, the alliance’s faculty director.

Moreover, previous research has shown that students of color are more likely to have academic success when they are exposed to teachers of different races, the study states. They are also more likely to be identified for gifted services and less likely to be chronically absent.

Only 13 percent of the Tennessee’s teachers are teachers of color, and the vast majority of them are black, while 37 percent of Tennessee students identify as a race other than white, the study states.

One of the challenges, Grissom said, is that about 75 percent of black teachers in Tennessee work in urban schools with greater poverty and lower student achievement. Turnover tends to be high at those schools because the work environment can be difficult. But high turnover, in turn, makes it hard for the schools to improve.

The Tennessee Education Research Alliance is a partnership between Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and the state Department of Education. The alliance works to carry out practical research that can have a direct effect on school policy across the state.

Future research will explore successful strategies for recruiting more teachers of color.

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