Needing to Be Seen, Longing to Be Heard: Empowering Educators of Color Through Affinity Groups

Needing to Be Seen, Longing to Be Heard: Empowering Educators of Color Through Affinity Groups

Marissa J. White (Sacred Heart University, USA), K. Kayon Morgan (University of Hartford, USA), and Thomas Lee Morgan (Sacred Heart University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6049-8.ch010
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While research indicates doctoral students of color need to be better supported by their institutions, there is a lack of well-aligned practices within the literature that targets specific support for doctoral students of color. This chapter reports the findings of a participatory action research study conducted with educators of color by utilizing affinity groups as an empowerment mechanism to provide well-aligned and appropriate support to improve the retention rates of educators of color within school districts and their academic programs. The study's results revealed educators of color require targeted support, including a safe space, validation, cultural understanding, and mentorship. Once provided with these targeted supports, educators of color gain internal empowerment, further developing a sense of advocacy. Both support and advocacy motivated participants in the study to stay in the education profession and persist through their doctoral studies. The chapter concludes with an empowerment framework to support educators of color and, by extension, graduate students of color.
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Literature Review

Retention of Teachers and Administrators

For over 30 years, the education system has struggled to retain teachers of color. Between the 1980s to 2016, the recruitment of teachers of color increased almost three times more than their White counterparts and even outpaced the growth of students of color (Ingersoll et al., 2018). While recruitment has increased over the decades, the core problem is centered around retention (Carter Andrews et al., 2019). Even though more teachers and administrators of color enter the profession, a more significant proportion leaves the profession at almost 25% (Carver-Thomas, 2018). A stark example is evident in the Washington D.C. data from 2003 to 2011, where the number of teachers who identify as African American and Black declined from 77% to 49% (Albert Shanker Institute, 2015).

The exodus of teachers and administrators of color is due to a variety of challenges, such as stagnant salaries, dissatisfaction with administration, frustrations with testing, discipline issues, lack of influence and autonomy, overly harsh working conditions, and institutionalized racism (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Carver-Thomas, 2017; Grooms et al., 2021; Ingersoll & May, 2011; Kohli, 2018). In addition, research shows evidence of exclusion in “expert” conversations, such as curriculum, systems, or student engagement, and a lack of leadership opportunities (Dixon et al., 2019; Kohli, 2016). Conversely, educators (administrators) of color were more likely to feel pushed out because of racialized school climates (Grooms et al., 2021).

Both teachers and administrators of color are often placed in hard-to-staff schools where their role is primarily disciplinarian (Achinstein et al., 2010; D’amico et al., 2017; Gomez & Rodriguez, 2011; Robinson et al., 2003). Such placements become complex resulting in racial battle fatigue and other psychological stressors (Grooms et al., 2021). Moreover, the conditions are strongly associated with the structural racism embedded within school systems, diminishing the desire to stay in the profession (Carver-Thomas, 2017; Kohli & Pizarro, 2016; Villegas & Irvine, 2010).

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