Closing the representation gap with the Educator Diversity Act
Dr. Linda C. Davis-Delano
For the three decades I have worked in the heart of our city at Springfield College as the Director of Educator Preparation and Licensure, working to get the next generation of teachers ready for the classroom. While our work has evolved over time, one thing I have always remained committed to is ensuring that our teachers reflect the diversity of our students. In Springfield, 87% of our students are Black or Latino, yet 77% of our teachers are white. This tells me that there is more work to be done, but this year we have a unique opportunity to accelerate progress on educator diversity by passing the Educator Diversity Act
The Educator Diversity Act will serve as a national model for diversifying the teacher workforce by reimagining how teachers prepare and enter the workforce, how they are retained, and ultimately supported to thrive in the teaching profession. This bill will help us accelerate our progress of having at least 25 percent educators of color in the state by 2030. More importantly, this bill will give school districts the tools and resources they need to prioritize educator diversity efforts.
Throughout my many years working with our public education system, I have collaborated with coalitions and initiatives all aimed at educator diversity, specifically, working with Black and Latino students who have considered teaching, but think the pathway is unattainable. If we want more teachers of color, we need to work across the community, and the Commonwealth to introduce the profession at a young age, and strengthen the pipeline in its entirety.
Where we have been successful is through initiatives like Paradigm Shift, started by the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition of Western Massachusetts, which has been able to build a pipeline of future teachers by giving them what they need: support. Whether this support comes in the form of financial aid, resources, or coaching; together we have helped bridge the gap between the idea of “could have been” to the idea of “when can I start?” Close to 100 individuals have gone through this program to become teachers of record, all of whom are Black or Latino.
We know that entering and staying in the teaching profession is challenging. Last year the pass rate on the initial or subsequent attempt for the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) was 55 percent, but lower for Black students (33.3%) and Latinos (46.6%). This bill would help establish alternative pathways to certification, allowing teachers in the classroom to gain the necessary experience and knowledge while navigating the winding road to becoming a licensed educator.
Closing the representation gap is doable with the right resources and support. At Springfield College’s paraprofessional program, 20-35% of students in our graduate program are Black or Latino. This is a big jump for a predominantly white institution. This is also crucial given the teacher shortage that our country faces. We are securing jobs and placing our teachers before they have completed the program, while ensuring they are prepared to have a positive experience when they enter the workforce. This is more important than ever for our community because we know teachers want to teach in the communities in which they live.
One of the lessons I have learned over the years is to “grow your own.” This means developing a pool of candidates — building a pipeline– who will stay in our hometown. We have seen a sweeping number of teachers across the country enter early retirement after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and schools closed their doors. There is an entire generation of educators who are ending their careers, leaving a wide gap to be filled. We have the opportunity to fill that gap with new educators of color.
They say it “takes a village” to raise a child, and a fundamental part of that village are teachers. Together, our community has done a fantastic job putting together programs, lobbying efforts, and building an energy around this movement. We need to continue to raise awareness on how beneficial it is to have teachers of color – for all of our students, their families, and our entire state school system. To make this movement a reality, we are calling on our state legislators to pass the Educator Diversity Act (H: 4539) this session. Recruiting, training and retaining educators of color is a lifelong commitment, and I am proud to be part of this work in Massachusetts.
Linda Davis-Delano has worked at Springfield College since 1993. As the director of educator preparation and licensure, she works closely with several academic departments (e.g. physical education and health education, education, and psychology). Davis-Delano has been extremely active at the Massachusetts state level serving on numerous working groups for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). As the liaison to DESE for Springfield College and as the College’s licensure officer, she is the “go-to” person to get answers to questions about becoming a teacher or school counselor.
Her community service includes advocating for the field of education and serving as a volunteer coach for youth boys’ soccer, basketball, and baseball. Prior to coming to Springfield College, she was employed at Hamline University, where she was the director of women’s athletics, professor of physical education, chair of the physical education department, and women’s volleyball coach. She also taught physical education and coached varsity volleyball and softball at Libertyville High School from 1975 to 1988.