Educators of Color are Not Being Valued, Centered, and Supported

CPS still has far too few educators of color -- and recruitment, hiring, and retention of educators of color remain inadequate. Significant mismatches remain between students’ and educators’ backgrounds.

  • “‘The recruitment and retention of Black and brown educators needs to be the priority of Cambridge Public Schools. Lisa Delpit has written extensively about the need for children of color to receive instruction in the context of their culture, because otherwise they are doomed to fail. The implication for children of color in [CPS], where the majority of educators are not reflective of the students being served, is far-reaching and insidious. It is wholly possible for a child to receive a K-12 education in CPS and never have a Black or Latinx teacher.”1

  • “Through the Dynamic Diversity Program, the district is paying attention to the recruitment and retention of teachers and staff of color. [Despite increasing numbers], the lived experiences of seeing racially diverse teachers in the school still feels underrepresented. As cited in the WBUR Edify interview (Cambridge Public Schools, May 2018), Lora Marseille, a CRLS senior at the time… stated she could only name two teachers of color though the report noted there were 40 teachers of color in the building. This highlights that, although the district is making progress in increasing the number of people of color, it is still possible to feel as if there are only a few.”2

  • Educators and community members describe a need for pathway programs3 through which students of color4, paraprofessionals, and after-school educators can become teachers. For example, many after-school educators of color indicate interest in educator licenses, “especially counseling and/or teaching.”5

Educators and administrators of color in CPS face intense workplace challenges.

  • Institutional culture has a major impact on educators of color - and many educators of color in CPS report, “a lack of appreciation [that makes] their hard work feel like it [is] not valued.”6

  • Educators of color often face “distrust [in their] abilities and ideas - especially if [they counter] the status quo”7

  • “There was a discussion of the different expectations of White and Black administrators and how administrators of color often experience being undermined by white staff and families.”8

  • “We have to eradicate the toxic environment that exhausts Black teachers/teachers of color, thus discouraging them on continuing and/or advocating for others to enter this district.”9

Educators of color are receiving insufficient supports from the district, from their schools, and from the Cambridge Education Association.10

  • Educators of color need, “different types of support to succeed in school culture based on white social norms/professional norms.”11
  • “Educators of color expressed deep frustration with belonging and the lack of structures in place to support them: ‘If they hire (people of color), do you support them so they can stay, which is the biggest thing? Like, when you come, you have nobody to support you. Nobody who looks like you. Of course, you're not going to stay. Why would you stay?’”12

  • “[Principals] raised the point that active union membership does not reflect the diversity of the educators of Cambridge and shared that many educators of color don’t feel like union represents them and don’t want membership with the union.”13

Educators of color and administrators of color are doing powerful work to address racism and inequity.14  But they currently bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility for addressing systemic issues.

  • Principals report that “equity is often… [seen] as administrators of color pushing the issue.”15

  • “Educators of color are taking on additional, unpaid emotional labor in order to meet the unmet needs of their marginalized students… and CPS generally fails to recognize and support this emotional labor... As a result, educators of color often end up frustrated, burned out, and drastically underpaid for the real work that they’re doing -- and the value they add.”16

  • “Many educators of color feel like they need to commit more time and work to creating greater equity. But, this burden… also impacts their personal lives... ‘Again, I'm one of the only people of color. And I feel that it's one of my responsibilities to stand for culture equity work or to have some good representation. It's affecting me because, like, I have family, I have kids and I have to take all this burden on me at work and try to manage my own personal life. But I think if I'm not doing this equity work then I'm harming my population and my students.”17

  • Educators of color can be “more than teachers” to their students and support a “redefinition of self” by “challenging all students to redefine what each person was capable of.” For example, one interviewee described a specific educator of color as being like “a mother to all kids.” Another described educators of color “[modeling] what pride in oneself and amongst people of color should and could look like.”18  Playing these roles can feel like a sense of “duty” for educators of color -- and it can also contribute to a sense of “joy.”19

  • “[The] voices and expertise [of people of color] are essential for equity work, since they are often ‘living with the failures of [our] systems… [and] creating adaptive solutions to them.’” To more fully “center, support, and share power with people of color,”20 efforts such as the Dynamic Diversity program, Employee Resource Groups, the CEA Educators of Color Committee, and the Building Equity Bridges CPAR collective are adopting promising practices that could be examined for broader implementation across the district.

1 Educators of Color Sense-Making Team Narrative
2 Focus Group Report
3 Educators of Color Sense-Making Team Fishbone
4 CPAR Study 4
5 CPAR Study 14
6 CPAR Study 4
7 Educator of Color Sense-Making Team Fishbone
8 Principals’ Input and Reflections
9 CPAR Study 4
10 For additional evidence, see the “Lack of Focus on Relationships” barrier
11 Educator of Color Sense-Making Team Fishbone
12 Focus Group Report
13 Principals’ Input and Reflections
14 For additional evidence, see “Equity Work Lacks Commitment” barrier
15 Principals’ Input and Reflections
16 CPAR Preliminary Themes and Recommendations
17 Focus Group Report
18 CPAR Study 4
19 Educator quotes, CPAR Study 4
20 CPAR Themes

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