Sunday February 21, 2021

Diversifying Teacher Workforce Needs Short And Long Term Strategies

Data can and should be used to guide decision making and is certainly critical in the realm of public education. The data on how teacher diversity effects student success continues to be powerful and The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public School’s Bilingual and Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs are already proving that long term recruitment solutions are available in our own backyard.

A newly published book by Seth Gershenson, Michael Hanson and Constance A. Lindsay provides a deep look at this topic. Entitled Teacher Diversity and Student Success: Why Racial Representation Matters in the Classroom, the authors have studied and done their own research based on the premise that teachers are the single most important factor in a student’s success in school.

Areas that have shown improvements with a diverse teacher workforce include increased trust, better communication, more solid relationships and higher expectations. These measures in turn translate to better test scores, fewer absences and suspensions, higher graduation and college enrollment rates. An ancillary benefit is white students’ improved understanding of race.

The data is clear that a diverse teacher workforce makes a difference. Getting there is not as easy as it may seem. Many school districts have policies that prioritize diversity hiring practices, which is a great step. What that translates to short term, according to the authors, is a movement of these teachers from district to district. There simply aren’t enough of them. The Bilingual and Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs fund OKCPS bilingual and BIPOC paraprofessionals to become certified teachers for the district. These programs take the long term approach to “growing our own” from a group of individuals already embedded in the school district and committed to our students.

To date, five have graduated with an education degree and now lead their own classrooms. The pipeline is flowing and is proof that partnerships between the Foundation, the school district and higher education (UCO, OSU-OKC, OCCC and Rose State College) can create an environment to make the participants successful.

The programs are only possible because of community partners who share the vision and are willing to support it. Some, like OGE Energy Corp. Foundation and the Inasmuch Foundation, have been supporters since the program started four years ago. Others, like Bank of America, the Potts Family Foundation and Devon came on more recently, but are providing critical support as the program has grown to 61 participants.

The evidence is clear. Providing programs promoting the greatest opportunities for all students is critical to ensuring that quality education continues to be the great equalizer as a predictor for better job opportunities, better health outcomes and quality of life.

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