NCTQ analyzes state policies to diversify teacher workforce, offers recommendations

Throughout the country, many education leaders cite the importance of diversifying the teacher workforce, but fewer are actually putting policies in place to make it a reality, according to a new study.

Researchers from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examined state recruitment and retention policies to determine the extent to which states are prioritizing teacher diversity in policy and funding across four areas: (1) building a stronger pipeline of future teachers of color; (2) offering incentives to attract candidates of color; (3) supporting, retaining and developing teachers of color; and (4) using data to set goals and track progress.

“We know the importance of teachers of color for all students, and we need to put state policies in place to attract, support and retain them,” said NCTQ President Heather Peske, noting past findings that having teachers of color increases positive academic, social-emotional and behavioral outcomes for all students, particularly students of color. “The good news is that state policymakers don’t have to start from scratch. There are many examples of states leading the way. We need more bold action to scale these efforts.”

For students of color specifically, studies have linked having a teacher of color to increased academic achievement and advanced course-taking, a reduction in disciplinary incidents, higher attendance rates, increased graduation and college-going rates, and better social-emotional outcomes like grit and sense of self-efficacy.

Key findings

  • While 36 states have created multiple pathways to prepare new teachers, only three (Louisiana, Mississippi and New York) are developing pathways with an explicit focus on attracting a more diverse workforce. Nearly every state has established or funded high school pipeline programs to boost overall recruitment, but just 21 have done so with the goal of explicitly increasing teacher workforce diversity.
  • Many states collect some teacher diversity data, yet only seven have set public goals for increasing the diversity of their teacher workforce.
  • Nearly half of states provide differentiated pay for hard-to-staff schools, which tend to have greater proportions of teachers of color; 34 states fund scholarships for teacher candidates, but only 17 of those do so with the explicit goal of increasing teacher diversity; and 27 use loan forgiveness as a teacher recruitment/retention strategy, of which only nine have an explicit goal of increasing teacher diversity.
  • Thirty-six states have funded or established state-level initiatives to support educator retention in general, but only 14 of those have an explicit focus on retaining teachers of color.


The NCTQ report provides a handful of recommendations for states to increase teacher diversity, including:

  • Setting specific goals to diversify the workforce and track relevant data.
  • Putting in place evaluation and reporting requirements to determine what investments perform best and worst to attract, support and retain teachers.
  • Funding teacher diversity efforts.
  • Tracking early career teachers with a focus on school-level retention data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to indicate retention success.
  • Investing in improving school climate and leadership, as negative school climate and interpersonal relationships at school (particularly those related to racial discrimination and microaggressions) have been shown to strongly influence whether or not teachers of color want to stay in the classroom.
  • Providing districts with training and funds to put in place equitable hiring and HR practices.
  • Bringing teachers of color to the table when creating policies.
  • Staving off the impact of layoffs on teachers of color by ensuring requirements do not make seniority the most important factor when considering layoffs, but take into account effectiveness and other factors, too.