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New program aims to recruit more Black educators to Colorado

Data from the Colorado Department of Education showed only 1.6% of teachers in the state identify as Black.

COLORADO, USA — Teach for America has partnered with a Colorado Springs nonprofit to offer $10,000 in salary incentives to attract Black educators to Colorado. Currently, fewer than 2% of teachers in the state identify as Black, according to Colorado Department of Education (CDE) data. 

The new effort, a partnership with the Sachs Foundation, will work to create community "cohorts" among new Black educators, who may be among the only teachers of color in their districts. 

"We cannot have high-quality instruction without a diverse teaching workforce," said Prateek Dutta, the executive director of Teach for America's Colorado chapter. "Just having one Black teacher for a Black child decreases absenteeism, decreases suspension rates, drastically increases college attendance and persistence by as high as 40%." 

In the 2021-2022 school year, CDE reported Colorado had 888 Black educators in classrooms — representing only a fraction of the state's 55,000+ teachers. In about 140 of Colorado's 178 school districts, there were no Black teachers, according to CDE data. 

Providing the $10,000 salary incentive isn't enough to convince Black teachers to come to Colorado, Sachs Foundation CEO Ben Ralston said. "It's very tough to enter schools where there are not a lot of other Black educators," he said. 

That's why Ralston said it is also working to develop a cross-district community for new teachers to connect with one another. "So that they know there is a cohort of other Black educators in Colorado that they can lean on," he explained.  

The Sachs program got off to a slow start when it began in 2020, partially because it takes time to identify undergraduate students who might be interested candidates, Ralston said. The partnership with Teach for America has accelerated the process. "We know this is going to be a project that takes years," he said. 

The first Teach for America cohort enters classrooms this fall. It's a small group: just 10 teachers, Dutta said. But it's a start — and more than double the typical recruiting class. 

"Sometimes the most intractable policy solutions, don’t require complex policy answers," he said. "It could be as simple as a salary supplement and a community to solve one of our biggest barriers in education today."

Data on teacher diversity from CDE can be found here. Information for the state's four largest districts is as follows: 

  • Denver Public Schools: 299 Black educators / 6,468 total educators 
  • Jefferson County Schools: 5 Black educators / 4,832 total educators 
  • Douglas County Schools: 42 Black educators / 3,682 total educators 
  • Cherry Creek Schools: 81 Black educators / 3,318 total educators

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