5 Innovative Ideas for Recruiting Teachers of Color

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Black female teacher in computer classroom

Diversifying the pipeline of teachers in classrooms has been a historic struggle for schools of all types. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, over half of K-12 students are students of color, yet only about 30% of teachers are of color at charter schools. The percent of teachers of color at district schools is even lower at 20%.

Either way, that’s a big disparity. And one that I have noticed myself as a student of color and aspiring teacher.

As part of my fellowship with the National Alliance this summer, I have spent part of my time researching innovative and interesting programs across our country that aim to recruit, train, and mentor teachers from diverse backgrounds.

During my time as a fellow, I have witnessed just how much the National Alliance believes in the power of diversifying the teacher workforce. Most recently, the National Alliance published a report with Public Impact highlighting how school leaders of color recruit, train, and support teachers of color.

Here are five resources I found that schools can adapt or implement to recruit teachers of color:

  1. ‘Grow Your Own’ Programs

In recent research, ‘Grow Your Own’ programs (GYO) have been cited as an effective strategy for states and schools to help recruit and retain teachers of color. GYO teacher programs aim to address teacher shortages, retention issues, and diversity by employing a variety of strategies that aim to recruit teachers from local communities.

For one example, GYO Illinois is a GYO program that ushers promising candidates through the teacher pipeline via partnerships between schools, teacher preparation programs, and community organizations. This program provides wrap-around support to teacher candidates including mentoring, coaching, test prep, and financial aid.

  1. High School Teacher Cadet Programs

Amid predictions of teacher shortages, high school teacher cadet programs began spreading in the mid-1980s. These programs often allow students in high school to take one or more elective courses related to teaching. High school teacher cadet programs is an innovative approach to recruiting talented youth to the teaching profession.

The South Carolina Teacher Cadet Program has served as a premier national model of these types of programs. Piloted in four South Carolina high schools in 1985-86, the program has grown to partner with 188 South Carolina high schools. Individuals in the program report that the coursework and field experience offered increased their knowledge of the teaching profession and more than 71,500 students have participated in the program’s 35-year history. 

  1. Teaching Residencies

Similar to the medical residency model, teacher residences provide aspiring teachers with a rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship with a masters-level education. Teacher residency programs offer a unique blend of theory and practice. Residents receive a stipend for living expenses throughout their training year. Additionally, residents receive a subsidized master’s degree upon completion of the residency.

CREATE is a teacher residency program at Georgia State University. Through a three-year residency, new teachers are offered a comprehensive support system. Residents can serve at charter schools through a partnership with the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School’s Center for Collaborative Learning.

  1. Relationship-based Recruitment

Building personal relationships with diverse students at institutions of higher education can be an effective strategy in diversifying the teacher pipeline. Hosting targeted events to connect with upcoming candidates can allow recruiters to build meaningful relationships with potential educators. Districts benefit from connecting with potential candidates before they decide to apply.

School leaders at Valor Collegiate Academies have maintained a strong commitment to minority staff recruitment. Significant staffing and budget resources are dedicated to meet the charter school network and school staff diversity goals. Valor has a staff member whose responsibilities include teacher recruitment. This member attends job fairs throughout the country to promote the school. The network also budgets $20,000 per year to fly in high-quality teaching candidates for interviews, a barrier for many applicants of color. 

  1. College Fellows

Education fellowships for college students offer unparalleled opportunities for hands-on experiences. Some fellowships also offer college students an opportunity to pursue their master’s degree as a part of the program or help students finance a graduate or postgraduate education. Other fellowships offer immersive internships for college students.

The Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellowship—the program I am participating in this summer—is a talent and leadership initiative aimed at building a pipeline of high-achieving Black students engaged in education. Walton Fellows are exposed to professional careers at leading K-12 education organizations and schools as they approach their senior year of college. As a Walton-UNCF fellow serving at the National Alliance, I can attest to the fact that this fellowship provides a unique opportunity to contribute to the greater efforts of educational organizations throughout America.

While the above resources for recruiting teachers of color should be a consideration for every school, we know that putting these measures in place is only the first step. Schools also need to provide supports for their teachers of color to thrive and a pipeline for them to advance.

But it is always good to take the first step.


Zoie Jones is a 2020 Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellow serving with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is a rising senior at Spelman College, a historically black college and university in Atlanta, majoring in Elementary Education. After graduation, Zoie aspires to become a teacher focusing her efforts on educating and inspiring children from low-income communities.