Diversity Hires in HCS

In 2020, a study of students in North Carolina and Tennessee was performed in order to see if there were positive effects tied to a student-teacher race match.  The study concluded that having a Black male teacher for one year in elementary school raised educational attainment over a long period of time for Black male students, specifically those students from low-income homes.  The study also showed lower amounts of referrals for violent incidents at the elementary level when a Black male teacher was in place.  In the end, the study supported multiple points of previous data that revealed exposure to Black teachers had positive effects on Black students.  

Currently – across the country and in our state – there is a teacher shortage.  Many educators are leaving the profession, and less teachers are entering the profession than ever before.  According to published data from EdTrust in 2020, only 11% of educators in Tennessee were teachers of color.  Meanwhile, 32% of students in Tennessee were students of color.  This disparity is even more prevalent in Haywood County.

Over the last several years, Haywood County Schools has made it a priority to hire people of color in order to better reflect the demographics of our student population.  At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, 66% of students in HCS identified as African-American students, but only 36% of the staff in HCS were African-American.  On the surface, that disparity is concerning, but meaningful strides have taken place in order to diversify the faculty and staff across our distinct.

A section of HCS board policy 5.100 established in April of 2021 states that HCS will “set goals for educator diversity that take into consideration the diversity of the student population.”

In the spring of 2022, HCS partnered with educational consulting firm Covariant Education in order to evaluate the strengths of the district as well as identify areas for needed improvement.  As part of an on-going improvement plan, CE recommended that HCS continue to work toward diversifying staff in order to better reflect the racial demographics of the student population.  

For the last three years, new hires in HCS have become more reflective of the student population.  

For the 2020-2021 school year, only 23% of new hires were African-American.  With an already unbalanced racial demographic, HCS sought to improve the diversity of new hires in the system.  The following year (2021-2022) saw the percentage of new hires who identified as African-American increase to 39%.  For this current school year’s group of new hires, nearly 50% of the new hires were African-American.  

For the purpose of clarification, the new hires referenced in this article were not the total number of new employees across the district, but only certified and classified employees who would be working with students in a learning environment.  These numbers do not include maintenance staff, culinary staff, or any other new hires who do not work in the classroom.  These are employees who work directly with students in a classroom environment.  

The importance of having educators that can personally relate to unique experiences of certain students has been shown in countless educational studies to have a positive impact.  Students respond to teachers who reflect the things they value in themselves – culture, experiences, and diversity.  

While attempting to bring our faculty and staff numbers closer to a racial equilibrium will not solve all of the educational challenges facing HCS, it can make a huge difference for a student population who needs to see reflections of themselves in more of their teachers.  

For more information regarding educational outcomes in diverse learning environments, visit the following links below: