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Automating your applicant tracking eases the effects of covert biases and helps ensure teachers of color are represented in your district.

How are you attracting and retaining teachers of color? 


Automating your applicant tracking eases the effects of covert biases and provides an attractive applicant experience

Key points:

Teacher retention is in crisis. Teachers of color leave the classroom at a higher rate than their white counterparts (19 percent vs. 15 percent, respectively), and students need to have more black and brown teachers leading classrooms.

Research tells us having a person of color teach them has a positive impact on students of all backgrounds, but particularly on the dropout rates of black students. We also know that attracting and retaining teachers of color presents unique challenges. 

No single software solution or hiring team can remove these systemic biases. However, automating your applicant tracking, hiring, and onboarding processes can break down barriers for applicants and result in a smoother, more attractive experience for all–drawing a larger, more diverse pool of applicants to your open positions. Let’s explore why automation can have a positive effect on hiring. 

A polished, professional first impression 

Using a standard format for recruiting ensures equity. Automation helps add a layer of professionalism, checks, and balances to all applicant interactions. Plus, automated systems give applicants a clue that your district invests in the latest technology across the board.  

Data transparency is good for school culture 

Applicant tracking systems also gather data for you, help you manage it, and have built-in compliance tools. The system includes a standard approval process dependent on the job posting, so applicant information is only available to approved reviewers. The data gathered is invaluable: seeing applicant and hiring trends helps human resource administrators analyze aggregated data to spot trends and share them with leaders and stakeholders. 

Embrace nontraditional paths to education careers 

One strategy for getting more teachers into classrooms starts with potential educators who don’t take a linear path to a teaching certificate. These educators do not always enjoy an unobstructed path from K-12 graduation to post-secondary graduation, and recognizing that is step one to building a diverse staff.  

“Grow your own” programs are not new to many districts. Relying on an applicant tracking system can incorporate internal candidates easily while respecting laws protecting applicants and organizations. There’s freedom in deciding to hire internally or externally depending on the position. 

Onboarding designed to last 

Applicant tracking can also lead to a smoother onboarding process. Because the same system that houses human resource information welcomes applicants, the information needed to get a new hire set up in the system has already flowed in. Brand-new employees don’t get bogged down in redundant data entry (nor do HR pros–win/win!).  

Particularly for teachers who may be moving into the district or commuting, offer multiple options for onboarding. Virtual onboarding may sound oxymoronic, but the accommodation goes a long way for the applicant who is likely juggling multiple life transitions. 

A coaching culture will engage employees and help them feel heard, respected, and valued. And finally, the data transparency goes a long way to showing that inclusion is a priority in hiring and retaining a team.  

Ensure your culture is comfortable for people of color 

More than anything, being willing to listen and pivot is crucial for teacher retention. Particularly for students of color, cultural competency is invaluable. The student population is crying out for representation. Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of teachers were white, while nonwhite enrollment declined to 44 percent in 2017. This means teachers of color often face a disproportionate population looking to them for familiarity and comfort–and even motivation and discipline. This sort of above-and-beyond skillset is often the spark that calls teachers to teach, but burnout lurks.  

Instead of these invisible taxes (see follow-up resources the end of this article) adding up for educators of color, strong and proactive communication can help draw and retain educators to your district. Principal Sharif El-Mekki of Mastery Charter Shoemaker in Philadelphia, PA, encouraged district leaders aiming to increase diverse teacher populations to reach out to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) near them. Advisory panels are another proactive communication strategy districts use to ensure they’re listening. Finally, pairing teachers with an established mentor can help ensure their first few years are comfortable and provide a strong foundation for growth. 

Schools are more than buildings students visit to practice skills. Rather, the community grown inside and around school buildings is an ever-evolving ecosystem. All students have the capacity to grow, change, and graduate primed for success into the wider world. Leaders who build their community mindfully can enjoy watching the seeds of their labors for decades to come.  

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