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Lack of Trust Impacts Retention Rates of Black Teachers in Wisconsin: Report

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A new study by researchers at the UW-Milwaukee examines the racial disparity in the teacher workforce in Wisconsin and discovers possible reasons why these persistent disparities persist.

The study explores the intersection of race and relational trust within schools for potential explanations regarding why few teachers of color work in the majority of Wisconsin schools and teacher retention is a challenge in majority students of color schools.

The report shows that 9 percent of all Wisconsin school students are black, but only 2 percent of Wisconsin teachers and 5 percent of principals are black. Other than in the Milwaukee School District, only 0.6 percent of teachers in Wisconsin are African American. Statewide, 86 percent of all Wisconsin schools do not have any African American teachers.

“After statistically adjusting for a number of teacher characteristics, such as gender, experience, and education, along with characteristics of schools, such as student free/reduced lunch eligibility and size, the gender of the principal, the type of school (middle, high, or elementary) and whether the principal was retained, African American teachers remained less likely to stay than White teachers,” the report stated. “The two-year adjusted retention rate for African American teachers was 70.3% compared to 78.2% for White teachers. After adjustment, Latinx teachers were not less likely to stay in their school than White teachers.”

The results of surveys completed by teachers at the end of the 2016-17 school year suggest that relational trust between teachers and between teachers and principals was extremely important for whether a teacher decided to stay or leave a school. African-American teachers had significantly lower levels of trust with other teachers and principals, the survey found.

“Wisconsin needs to explore creative solutions for increasing the number of teachers of color, such as grant programs for students of color to receive training and recruiting paraprofessionals from the community and then supporting their growth and development to become teachers,” the report said in one of its conclusions. “Teacher preparation programs should also recruit and graduate more teachers of color.”

The full report, Race, Relational Trust, and Teacher Retention in Wisconsin Schools, can be seen by clicking here.