When it was time for her son to register for kindergarten, Norfolk teacher Tamu Crisden visited her neighborhood school, where she saw a display of staff photos. “There wasn’t one black teacher, administrator, or even cafeteria worker,” she said. “So he went to the school down the street, the one other parents were trying to get their kids out of. They had at least a few black staff members there, and I know it has an impact.”
Today, her son is 14 and, Crisden says, has greatly benefited from being in schools with teachers and others who look like him. “He loves his white teachers,” she said, “but to see black educators means everything. He knows he’s not alone.”
Stories like that are why VEA held its third conference on Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color, this time in February at Norfolk State University. There, Leah Dozier Walker, the Virginia Department of Education’s director of equity and community engagement, told participants that students of color now make up 51 percent of the state’s public school population, but that 82 percent of our teachers are white.
Forty-nine percent of Virginia pupils are students of color, compared to just 21 percent of teachers.
The VEA is moving to address that gap with a new report, “Building a Diverse Workforce”. The recommendations in the report grew from a summit meeting led by VEA that drew representatives from school divisions, government, and higher education.
“We know that recruiting and retaining teachers has become more difficult in the last decade,” VEA President Jim Livingston says in the report’s foreword. “Enrollment in teacher training programs has decreased by 35 percent since 2009…. Virginia needs a rigorous plan to slow down the attrition of our best teachers, and to elevate the profession so that our very best college students, once again, want to become teachers.”
The VEA report makes recommendations in four areas: