State pilot program to help recruit, retain teachers of color

Twenty-four colleges and universities statewide will be part of a pilot program to develop recruitment and retention plans for future teachers of color.

The Illinois State Board of Education will require the 54 educator preparation programs statewide to develop plans next year. The pilot will help establish best practices ahead of that mandate.

Among colleges and universities voluntarily participating in the pilot are Benedictine University in Lisle, Dominican University in River Forest, National Louis University, which has campuses in Elgin, Lisle, and Wheeling, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and Trinity International University in Deerfield.

The pilot helps break down barriers for people of color to join the teaching profession, State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said.

"All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having diverse educators throughout their school experiences," Ayala said in a news release. "My own mentors in my career have been people of color like me. When the role models and people in positions of authority in our lives look like us, that shapes our perception of our place in the world in a positive and powerful way."

The recruitment and retention efforts are part of the state education board's three-year strategic plan, which includes a goal of increasing teacher diversity in public schools.

The 2021 Illinois Report Card shows 82% of practicing Illinois teachers identify as white, while only 47% of public school students identify as white.

Research from the Learning Policy Institute shows teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including reading and math test scores, graduation rates, and aspirations to attend college. Studies also show students taught by teachers of the same race are less likely to be chronically absent and less likely to experience exclusionary discipline.

The number of teachers of color in Illinois has grown incrementally over the past three years.

Pilot participants will draft their plans, receive feedback from a peer review committee composed primarily of Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher Network members, and meet to exchange ideas and collaborate. They will finalize their plans by May 31.

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