Chicago-area school districts face a shortage of black teachers, struggling with retention rates as they create career pipelines

CHICAGO (WLS) — If you’re a student of color in Illinois, chances are your teacher won’t look like you. And when it comes to success, representation matters.

“They just have a bigger influence being around people who look like you,” said Deshon Johnson, principal of Butler College Prep, the school is located in Chicago’s South End neighborhood.

There is a growing body of research on the positive impact that black teachers have on classroom behavior and academic achievement for black students.

But according to state education data analyzed by the ABC7 data team, in Illinois, 16% of public school teachers were either black, Hispanic or Asian. Yet these groups made up 49% of the state’s student population.

“We need our students to have role models. We need opportunities for them to see themselves represented in the classroom,” said Carolyn Theard-Griggs, dean of the Chicago State University College of Education.

However, retaining black educators has not been easy.

Black teachers have the lowest retention rate of any racial group in the state, with 81% remaining in their schools compared to 87% overall.

“If we don’t address this now, it could lead to a generation of students who won’t have the same academic success as students in my class and other classes,” said Devin Evans, Butler College Prep 12th grade. year. teacher.

Evans also leads the Black Male Educators Alliance of Illinois. He knows firsthand why teachers, especially those who are black, are leaving the profession.

“It’s hard work and a job of the heart. And if you’re in a school that doesn’t support you as a black teacher, it’s going to be hard to keep you in that space,” he said.

To better support black teachers, Chicago-area districts have said recruitment is key. But they compete for a limited number of black educators entering their profession, and black male teachers are harder to find, they said.

“This is an extreme challenge for us and we know it for all of our other districts in the state,” said Louis Lee, assistant superintendent of human resources for Indian Prairie School District 204.

The district serves students from the western suburbs, including parts of Naperville, Aurora, Boilingbrook, and Plainfield. District officials said they have expanded their recruiting efforts and diversified their recruiting teams. The retention rate for IPSD 204 black teachers is 90%.

Illinois’ largest school system, Chicago Public Schools, maintains its black teachers at an 80 percent rate. That’s on par with the retention rate for all school districts combined for black teachers.

CPS officials said they are developing their own pipeline of future teachers. The Teach Chicago Tomorrow program helps put CPS graduates on the path to the classroom. The other is a paid residency program for teachers, targeting people looking for a career change.

Alexander Peacock, a participant in the SPC Teachers’ Residency Program, said he decided to teach while coaching high school wrestling.

“I saw that through coaching and mentoring, I had a positive effect on my students,” he said. “So I thought, how could I reach more students?”

At the college level, Chicago State University recently launched the Call Me MISTER program for black and brown students in education. The program offers tuition assistance and mentoring.

“College is expensive and if you talk to any of our Call Me MISTER program students they will tell you it was one of the draws, they get a four year scholarship and that they don’t have to graduate in debt,” Theard-Griggs said.

Scholar Barry Wilson Jr. said some of his family and friends tried to push him into higher-paying professions.

“The salary doesn’t put me off wanting to do something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’m always going to be the teacher who wears the cape in the classroom.”

Evans teaches a course on urban education at Butler College Prep. He said some of his students were considering following in his footsteps.

“Teachers are nation builders and their work will last beyond the classroom,” Evans said.

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