JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While the nation faces an on-going teacher shortage, a collective effort is underway in Jacksonville, Fla., to address a very specific need: Black and Latino male teachers. Nearly one year after committing to help recruit, support and retain 1,000 diverse male teachers by 2025, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) and its partners in the initiative have had success in recruiting Black and Latino teachers and are using their research findings to stem the tide of teachers leaving the profession.
This year, Duval County Public Schools hired 148 male teachers of color for the 2022-2023 school year (SY), surpassing the initiative’s stated goal of 64 new teachers for that year. However, on the heels of COVID-19 and amid rising inflation the loss of diverse teachers – to factors such as retirements, terminations, and resignations – the overall number of diverse male teachers stayed about the same as SY 2021-2022. Overall, 67% of Duval County students are Black or Latino.
“Considering the overall teacher shortages we are seeing across the nation, we are fortunate to be maintaining our current percentage of diverse male teachers,” said Victoria Schultz, assistant superintendent of Human Resources for Duval County Public Schools. “We exceeded our goal in recruiting male teachers of color and now our focus is on keeping them in the district and supporting our existing teachers.”
Recruiting and retaining diverse male teachers also helps fill the overall teacher shortage.
Rasheed Reed, a 5th grade math teacher who became interested in teaching while working as a security guard in the schools, said he relates in many ways to his students. “I really want to make sure they are heard,” he said. “The more and more I teach, I want it to be more of them and less of me.”
He said his experience prior to teaching compelled him to become a teacher. “I knew I had to be a teacher,” he said. “I had to have the self-confidence and say, ‘If not you, who?’ You can’t just talk about the problems; you have to take action.”
Students, said Reed, see in him broader options for their futures. “They are able to see a different narrative and see other options, because sometimes other options aren’t exhibited. Everyone wants to be a basketball player or football player, but you can be a teacher who plays basketball, you could be a neuroscience football player. Your life doesn’t have to be two dimensional,” he said.
The coalition partners, which include the school district, the University of North Florida, Florida State College Jacksonville and several nonprofits, is addressing the needs of current Black and Latino male educators in order to encourage them to continue teaching in Duval County.
Measures include paying current diverse male educators to act as coaches for the new teachers; providing stipends for new teachers; organizing affinity groups for Black and Latino male teachers; and providing tutoring assistance to teachers for certification.
“At JPEF, we ground our work in research, and our research with current Black male and Latino educators indicated compensation, a lack of support and being called on to do things outside of teaching, such as being the disciplinarian, were key factors in retention,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune.
In August, Duval County voters approved a one mill property tax increase that will be used to increase compensation for teachers, particularly veteran teachers. Duval County became the 21st county in Florida to pass the one mill property tax for education; voters in Hillsborough County – the only other large urban school district in Florida without the tax – defeated a similar measure by a small margin.
“We worked hard to get the message out about the importance of that referendum,” said Fortune. “We are very grateful to the voters of Duval County for passing it because we know that it is going to be an important tool in recruiting and retaining teachers and especially diverse male teachers.”
In October 2021, JPEF announced the 1,000 by 2025 initiative after its research showed that while Duval County’s student population is becoming more diverse, that is not reflected in the teacher population.
The JPEF study showed Black and Latino male teachers made up less than 10% of teachers in Duval County Public Schools, while Black male and Latino students make up about 30% of the student body. The Duval County numbers mirror those across the country, where the shortage of diverse male teachers is also acute.
Studies show all students benefit from having diverse teachers and Dimas Vidales, a Latino educator in Duval County, said teachers who represent the student demographics are important to learning. “Who better than a Latino teacher to instruct students of the same background; making the connections during instruction makes it all more relatable and intrapersonal,” he said. “Students need educators who could add that extra touch of understanding and sensitivity in a culturally responsive classroom.”
Since announcing the initiative, JPEF and partner organizations have been developing infrastructure to recruit, retain and support male teachers of color and expand the teacher pipeline. The work is supported by JPEF’s research and interviews with current male teachers of color working in Duval County.
“There are several other efforts to diversify the teacher workforce happening across the country, but none, that I know of, have pulled in so many resources as this coalition,” said Dr. Rudy Jamison, chair of the 1,000 by 2025 Steering Committee and director of the Urban Education Scholars Program, as well as the University of North Florida Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. “It’s going to take multiple layers of support for existing teachers and years of recruitment efforts, beginning as early as elementary school, to develop the pipeline of diverse teachers. It is important to understand that every new teacher entering the classroom influences the next generation and shows them what is possible as an educator.”
Efforts to Date:
40% of current diverse male teachers said compensation is one of the biggest obstacles they face in continuing teaching
· Supported by JPEF through its endorsement, community forums and public support, Duval County voters passed a one mill property tax referendum that will increase compensation for teachers, particularly veteran teachers
· Through the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, JPEF provides $5,000 stipends for Black and Latino male teachers who become teachers in Duval County. New and experienced teachers are eligible for the stipend; however, teachers must be new to teaching in Duval County.
· Down payment and mortgage assistance is provided through several financial institutions, and many local businesses provide teacher discounts for goods and services.
Diverse male teachers expressed lack of support at multiple levels.
· School Board Chairman Darryl Willie created the affinity group, The Ones, for Black male educators. An affinity group for Latino teachers is also being developed.
· Funded by JPEF, newly hired Latino and Black male teachers are paired with a veteran teacher coach to support them through their first year in the classroom.
· Funded through JPEF, veteran male teachers of color serve as ambassadors to elevate the value and benefits of the teaching profession
· Professional development for male teachers of color is available through the University of North Florida School of Education’s Teacher in Residency program; Florida State College of Jacksonville (FSCJ); and teacher fellowships housed at JPEF.
· Through Teach for America - Jacksonville and Florida State College Jacksonville diverse male teachers have the opportunity for certification tutoring through two highly successful programs.
· Duval County Public Schools offers a shadowing program for new teachers who do not have education degrees.
· JPEF provides professional learning opportunities for teachers and school leaders to connect them with resources and best practices.
Fewer people are going into formal College of Education programs
· Duval County Public Schools offers an Early College Education Academy that pays for high school students to receive their Associate of Arts degree for free ($7,000 value), an opportunity to work as a paraprofessional while getting their bachelor’s degree; and hiring preference in Duval County schools.
· The University of North Florida offers a $6,000 scholarship to students through the Urban Education Scholarship program with preference given traditionally underrepresented Northeast Florida students.
· Partnerships with Teach for America, City Year and READ USA introduce young people to teaching as a career.
To further address the issue of teacher retention, JPEF is announcing a new grant opportunity. Organizations can apply for up to $10,000 to support programs or initiatives designed to support and retain male teachers of color.
“We know there are organizations also engaged in this work and we want to support them in finding solutions to keeping our experienced male teachers of color,” said Fortune. “We are particularly focused on retention and pipeline development as we know that’s the greatest challenge we currently face.”
Fortune also noted factors outside of schools that impact recruiting and retaining teachers. “The male teachers of color we surveyed indicated they felt a lack of support at multiple levels, including from lawmakers and parents,” she said. “We’re doing all we can at the local level to support teachers, but we also need decision makers at all levels, in and out of schools, to uplift teachers and the teaching profession.”