Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and North Carolina Take Steps to Increase Educator Diversity
Alexandria, VA – Over half of U.S. public school students are nonwhite, yet only 8 percent of teachers and school leaders are people of color. Black and Latino students are more likely to be academically successful, graduate from high school, and attend college when they are being taught by educators who look like them. A new NASBE analysis highlights four states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and North Carolina—that have taken significant steps to increase educator diversity.
According to author Woody Exley, member of the Connecticut State Board of Education, these states have taken a multipronged approach to reduce barriers to entry for teachers of color and promote a more diverse workforce. Such strategies include offering alternative teacher certification programs and financial assistance for certification, equity training and culturally responsive professional development, and grow-your-own initiatives.
The Connecticut State Board of Education set a goal of increasing the percentage of educators of color from 8.3 to 10 percent in 2021 and hiring 1,000 certified educators of color in five years. By the 2019–20 school year, the percentage of educators of color had increased to 9.6 percent, and school districts had hired 1,300 diverse educators.
Exley credits initiatives like Educators Rising, a program that inspires students to pursue teaching careers, and alternative teacher certification programs such as Relay Connecticut, which enables professionals from various occupations to become teachers. The Connecticut Department of Education helps districts develop workforce diversity plans and works with other New England states to strategize on recruiting and retaining educators of color and on guidance and resources.
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education set an ambitious goal of increasing its share of diverse teachers to 26 percent by 2030, up from 8 percent currently. The state has invested in equity training for educators and staff, tuition assistance, and professional development that cultivates relationships between teachers and administrators of color.
The North Carolina State Board of Education created a framework for increasing educator diversity significantly by 2025 and is working to break down barriers of entry for teachers of color. A governor-appointed task force, on which state board members served, identified several issues: addressing the rising cost of college, revising professional teaching standards to be more culturally responsive, offering multiple pathways and financial support for certification, and tracking progress.
In Kentucky, partnerships between school districts and universities that support grow-your-own teacher pipelines are a key part of the recruitment, preparation, and retention of educators of color. “Current students in every community will provide most of the future teaching workforce. There are no better recruiters for the profession than current educators themselves,” says Lu Young, chair of the Kentucky State Board of Education. The state has also invested in teacher residency and district induction programs focused on accelerating the professional growth of new teachers and ensuring their success.
“Teacher and leader diversity are an essential component of an equitable education for all students,” writes Exley. “Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky and North Carolina are four examples of how states are addressing the need to recruit and retain more educators of color. They provide a roadmap for other states intent on increasing educator diversity.”
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.