WEIDMAN: Our Newark Charter Is Fully Staffed With 86% Teachers of Color—Here’s How We Do It

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Mindy Weidman  is the Chief Talent Officer of BRICK Education Network, an education organization serving the greater Newark, New Jersey area with the mission of “Building Resilient Intelligent Creative Kids.”

Staffing shortages are a widespread issue, but they are especially prevalent in school districts that serve majority Black and Brown children. These schools are often critically affected by disinvestment and, without effective, culturally aware teachers, the quality of education students receive suffers.

To combat this, school leaders should make recruiting teachers of color a priority. Research shows that when Black students have at least one Black teacher by the time they reach 3rd grade, they’re 13% more likely to enroll in college. Black children benefit from being taught and  mentored by educators who look like them, understand their struggles and provide them with nuanced advice on which path to take in life.

In actuality, all children can benefit from educators of color who participate in culturally responsive teaching practices. According to recent research, teachers of color are more likely than their white colleagues to spend time building relationships with students and their families, make more effort to differentiate instruction to fit the needs of their students, lead classrooms that put a precedence on order, and see that student intelligence is a marker that can be adjusted and developed over time. This is the type of educational environment that all students deserve, regardless of their background.

BRICK Education Network is fully committed to ensuring that our youth receive the best education possible. We began our school year fully staffed with educators, 86% of which identify as people of color. This speaks volumes, as teachers of color only make up 21% of the profession nationwide. Our teachers are committed to the growth of their students, and are passionate about the working to ensure that each of them reach their academic goals.

The strain of COVID has amplified many of the issues driving educators to leave the classroom in droves, leading to unprecedented turnover. Our school was no exception. With that in mind, we are working to prioritize the voices of our educators by fostering a culture of constant feedback. While we began the year fully staffed, we must prioritize retention on a daily basis to ensure that we keep great educators in the classroom. We’ve done this by developing culture surveys and various touch points throughout the school year to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of our team. This investment in our human capital is born out of an understanding of the sacrifices that parents make to ensure their children receive a quality education. At BRICK, we are ready and well-equipped to serve as an equal and resourceful partner in achieving that goal.

Many of our teachers are parents themselves, and constantly have to strike a balance between supporting the needs of their students and being present in the lives of their own children.

This should not only be the aim, but also the conversation for all school districts, especially those with predominantly Black and Brown student populations. All children deserve a quality education and without the teachers to educate them, the mission falls short.

At this critical point in American history and society, we cannot fail our children by withholding the resources and support teachers need to provide the education and experience our children deserve. Educational leaders around the country should be vigilant and creative in ensuring teacher retention rates improve, or risk more children becoming disengaged.

BRICK is proud to be a committed, relentless and passionate organization dedicated to the education of children, providing an enjoyable learning experience not just for the students, but for the teachers and the entire Newark community.

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