National initiatives to increase the number of teachers of color have advanced thanks to an increasingly multi-ethnic student population and research into the benefits of a diverse workforce. Now, new efforts are being made to address the recruitment and retention of Latino educators to serve the growing culturally and linguistically diverse Latino student population.
Between fall 2009 and fall 2020, Latino students were the only major racial or ethnic group whose public school enrollment increased, at about 28% of the K-12 student body, data shows. federal. Yet Latino teachers represent only 9% of the teaching profession.
To better inform the unique challenges and opportunities that come with hiring and retaining Latino educators, Latinos for Education has created a new advisory board look at what is happening locally and at the state level.
The nonprofit organization focuses on policy and advocacy for Latino families, educators, and leaders. This is part of the “One Million Teachers of ColorCampaign coalition led by nonprofit education policy institute Hunt Institute that aims to add 1 million teachers and 30,000 leaders of color to the workforce by 2030.
“We want to make sure that Latino educators and the needs of Latino students are centered in these national dialogues,” said Feliza Ortiz-Licon, policy and advocacy manager at Latinos for Education.
The new six-member board has representatives from Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri and Tennessee. They are general managers, executive directors and leading members of regional or national organizations.
“We want to know, ultimately during implementation, what are the challenges?” Ortiz-Licon said. ” What are the opportunities ? What did you do in Missouri? What did you do in Arizona? And how can we ensure that we take this into account when we try to implement this campaign? »
The new advisory council will address the nuances of what it means to serve established Latino communities in states like California and Arizona — and new emerging communities in the South, including Tennessee and Missouri. Within the Latin American student population, various identities are at play, including race, immigration status, whether the students are first-generation students, and whether they are multilingual.
Geographic diversity is also key to recognizing the different political realities that exist across the country.
“For some people, that makes sense. We want to make sure that teachers are equipped to better reach their students, that they are able to make content accessible, relevant to the student,” Ortiz-Licon said. “But in some markets, even mentioning the word ‘diversity’ could be controversial.”
The advisory board will also seek to increase the number of educators certified to work with English language learners. About 75% of the student population learning English in public schools speak Spanish as their first language.
Challenges abound in keeping well-trained Latino teachers in classrooms
Some national challenges to the council’s work are already clear.
There is the challenge, for example, of ensuring that Latino students graduate from high school and continue their education for a career in teaching, which in itself presents barriers ranging from finances to student debt, to academic readiness, to the impact of immigration status, Ortiz-Licon said.
There is the question of the extent to which teacher education programs teach all teachers to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students.
And when more Latino educators are hired, there’s the question of making sure they stay.
In 2019, Latinos for Education conducted a survey Massachusetts Latino educators and learned that, on average, they left the field within four years of entering.
Educators cited inadequate pay, but also experiences of microaggressions, opposition when trying to make educational content more culturally and linguistically relevant, and being asked to do translation or to lead work on diversity, equity and inclusion without additional compensation.
Such problems are also cited among Latino educators outside of Massachusetts.
One of the goals of the advisory board will be to capture the nuances within Latino educators, who represent a range of experiences and backgrounds. They may or may not be bilingual, they come from different cultures and they have different reasons for choosing to enter or leave the teaching profession.
“Don’t reduce our existence to just one problem,” Ortiz-Licon said. “Don’t bundle our community into some sort of predetermined narrative of who we are and why we’re in the field or not.”