A Coherent Vision for Supporting Teachers Emerging in Delaware
National headlines over the last few years echoed what education insiders have known for a while: states like Delaware need to better support its teachers, who, even post-pandemic, are increasingly overburdened and scarce.
One persistent wrinkle among the set of challenges: our teacher workforce doesn’t reflect the diversity of our students—with just 17 percent of Delaware teachers identifying as people of color compared to 56 percent of students. And the teachers of color we do have in our classrooms aren’t usually sticking around for long. Only about 50 percent of teachers of color remain in the same school after two years.
Why does that matter? Research affirms that a diverse teacher workforce leads to increased academic achievement for all students (especially students of color), higher enrollment in advanced courses, and greater social-emotional development.
When it comes to teachers sticking with their schools, we know that high retention levels positively impacts school climate, teacher readiness and effectiveness and student learning, while reducing teacher shortages and hiring costs.
So how is Delaware looking to increase the teachers of color in the pipeline and their retention in the profession? The below set of efforts are part of an overarching strategy that encompasses the Delaware Department of Education, several large districts, Rodel, and a host of partners and supporters.
Teacher Academy. The K-12 Teacher Academy program of study is a career and technical education (CTE) program that prepares high school students for careers in elementary and secondary education. Observation opportunities in a variety of age and discipline settings, as well as special needs and non-classroom settings, provide practical experiences while enriching the learning. Students have opportunity to participate in work-based learning during their senior year in a classroom setting. Rodel helped to pilot a more culturally responsive Teacher Academy curriculum and continues working with districts and institutions of higher education on how to better align around the Teacher Academy so that students can more seamlessly move transition into teacher prep programs.
Teacher residencies. Much like clinical residencies for medical professionals, teacher-prep students may pursue teacher residencies. Teacher candidates are placed with mentor teachers in select partner schools where they observe, learn from, and co-teach with their mentor over the entire school year. The immersive co-teaching approach provides a true-to-life teaching experience and prepares candidates to competently manage their own classrooms immediately upon graduation. Candidates are involved in all teacher-related activities throughout the year, including classroom set-up, lesson planning, and more. In recent years, Rodel helped to fund US PREP, a national technical assistance provider, who brought a “residency hub” concept to Delaware and led the design and facilitation process between Relay Graduate School of Education and the Colonial School District.
Teacher of Color Affinity Groups. Rodel is working to support Red Clay and Colonial school districts in the launch of teacher of color affinity groups. These affinity groups—think of them as professional support groups—will be led by current classroom teachers who will facilitate conversations with their peers to learn, share, and grow in their practice. In recognition of their leadership, these teachers will receive additional pay from their districts for the extra time spent preparing and leading these groups.
[Read more: Q&A with Alena Warner-Chisolm]
With the partnership of several of the state’s largest districts, institutions of higher education, and a suite of state investments—Delaware has some serious momentum behind its teacher support efforts.
The efforts don’t end there. The state is also actively exploring an updated pay scale for teachers, and newly established Teacher Apprenticeships will provide even more avenues for aspiring educators. Innovative opportunities for career advancement, microcredentials, and leadership opportunities are all key factors, too.