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Education Deans Share Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining Latino Teachers

While the number of Latino teachers has increased in recent years to represent nearly 8 percent of the teacher workforce, the growth has not kept pace with student demographic shifts.

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Last summer, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics convened a meeting of education deans from Hispanic-serving institutions across the country to brainstorm ideas for getting more Latinos into the teaching profession. The group recently released a white paper with their recommendations — among them a challenge to recognize and remove implicit bias in education.

While the number of Latino teachers has increased in recent years to represent nearly 8 percent of the teacher workforce, the growth has not kept pace with student demographic shifts. Currently, about 25 percent of students in U.S. public schools are Latino and could benefit, research shows, from having shared cultural experiences with the leaders of their classrooms.

One barrier to the recruitment of Latinos to the profession is often a perception that “it doesn’t pay,” the initiative’s former executive director, Alejandra Ceja, told me in a recent interview. But another issue the deans describe is implicit bias in schools — before students get to the workforce — that starts a “continuous cycle” that distances Latinos from the field.

“If Latina/Latino/Hispanic students have a positive school experience, they are more likely to consider a career in teaching,” the deans write. ”Unfortunately, due to biases and stereotypes many Latina/Latino/Hispanic students do not experience a positive education during their early schooling years hence often are not inspired to pursue higher education.”

Studies have found that white teachers often have lower expectations for their students of color, even as early as preschool, and that black and Latino children are more likely to be passed over for gifted education programs. We also know from federal civil rights data that black and Latino students are suspended from school at disproportionate rates.

Additionally, Latinos represent the largest student group attending high-poverty schools, which are less likely to offer a wide range of math and science courses and typically have higher rates of suspensions and expulsions, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The deans list various approaches that have been shown to combat implicit bias, including:

  • Workshops on unconscious bias and micro-aggressions both in and out of the classroom;
  • Professional development for teachers and school staff on equity and cultural sensitivity;
  • Ethnic studies courses and other culturally relevant curriculum;
  • Positive, welcoming environment that promotes community and a sense of belonging;
  • Restorative justice discipline in lieu of zero-tolerance policies;
  • After-school mentoring opportunities and projects led by Latino teachers.

The white paper also addresses teacher preparation programs’ retention of Latino teachers, who have reported facing racial discrimination, financial barriers, time constraints, and a lack of support and resources. These future teachers would benefit from a culturally relevant curriculum and role models who would encourage them in their aspirations and point them to resources that could ease the financial strain, the deans write.

They also suggest that further exploration of “grow your own” programs (such as the Bilingual Teacher Scholars Program at Western Oregon University and California Mini-Corps), as well as alternative certification and other models of teacher preparation at colleges and universities will provide more opportunities for Latinos to enter the teaching workforce.