Advising School Administration on How to Retain Teachers of Color

  • Authored the chapter “Why Predominately White Schools Can’t Retain Black Teachers,” in the book Educating Elites for Social Justice: Promising Practices & Lessons Learned in K-12 Schools, edited by Dr. Katy Swalwell and Dr. Daniel Spikes, to be published by Teacher´s College Press in 2020.
  • In this chapter, I elaborate on six of the most commonly cited factors that lead Black and Latinx faculty to leave—or get pushed out of—elite schools. I explore the racial, psychological and institutional dynamics behind each of these factors, supporting this discussion with both scholarly research and anonymous anecdotes from Black and Latinx teachers:

  1. Lack of Safety in Numbers. As Black and Latinx teachers are generally among a small minority in their elite schools, they tend to experience a sense of isolation, and face increased scrutiny and implicit expectations that they represent their entire race. Latinx faculty, in particular, may be expected to speak for a range of diverse heritages, both immigrant and American. In addition, they are usually expected to take on extra responsibilities to support students of color and help lead diversity programming.

  1. Cultural Misunderstandings. Black and Latinx faculty less likely to be familiar or “fluent” with an independent school’s implicit culture and communication and conflict resolution styles, as these often reflect (upper) middle class white communication styles. As a result, they are less likely to be privy to a school’s unspoken school rules, and less likely to receive essential informal feedback from white colleagues and administration—or more likely to misinterpret it.
  1. Double Standards. Black and Latinx faculty are often held to higher standards by students, parents, and administration, and endure closer scrutiny than their White colleagues. This often occurs when Black and Latinx teachers are inflexibly and strictly held to formal expectations, while White teachers are more likely to be given reasonable latitude and flexibility.  In addition, Black and Latinx faculty must often “prove themselves” when they first start working at the school, in ways that new white teachers are not.
  1. More Vulnerable to Entitled, Connected Parents. Some Black and Latinx educators report that wealthier and well-connected white students and parents are more comfortable challenging their grading or the academic and behavioral consequences they mete out. Some parents with political clout appear to knowingly weaponize the power differentials to the benefit of their child.
  1. Punished for Pushing Schools to “Walk the Walk”. Black and Latinx faculty are often labeled as “angry” or “difficult” or “radicals” and marginalized or pushed out when they “call out” racism, or attempt to push schools past ineffective, superficial efforts and follow through on even its own claims of social justice and racial equity. This even occurs to those who were hired with the specific purpose of furthering these objectives.
  1. White Blinders. Too often when Black and Latinx faculty raise concerns about race-related challenges in their schools, the administration minimizes, denies or justifies away the challenges, or attributes them to the personal failings of the black and Latinx faculty themselves.  The administration cannot “see” the racial bias or double standards since they have never experienced them themselves, and they universalize their perceptions. The rapid turnover of Black and Latinx faculty is attributed to personal reasons, “not a good fit”, or “difficult personality.”
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