The Allegheny County Black Teacher Study is a research project shaped by insights from the local community. It aims to understand the challenges Black teachers face in being recruited and retained in public schools in Allegheny County. Through interviews and focus groups in spring 2023, we directly engaged with 38 current and former Black teachers, gathering data on their perspectives and experiences. The final report not only shares their insights but also provides recommendations for improving the recruitment, hiring, retention, and support of Black teachers.
Small but Mighty: Lessons from Black Teachers’ Experiences in Allegheny County complements RFA’s previous analysis on teacher mobility in the county, revealing that teachers of color, particularly Black teachers, left their positions more frequently than White educators from 2014 to 2020. Moreover, it highlights a consistent decline in both the proportion and total number of Black teachers in the region, surpassing the overall decrease in the Black population in both Pittsburgh and the rest of Allegheny County. The three major takeaways include:
- Black teachers offer Allegheny County students and schools several unique and important contributions, as every aspect of their role—including pedagogies and practices—is informed by both their identity and their purpose for choosing this profession. Their unique contributions include:
- Strong relationships and special connections with Black students, which are impacted by shared cultural backgrounds and experiences between Black teachers and students; intentional investment of teachers’ time and energy; and the importance of representation of Black teachers.
- Pedagogical approaches and practices such as culturally relevant teaching, maintaining high expectations and alternative discipline strategies.
- Black teachers in Allegheny County face many challenges related to systemic and interpersonal racism that impact their experiences as educators. These include microaggressions, harm caused by White colleagues, unjust treatment from White district and school administrators, heavier workloads and racism toward students.
- Participants also described several major challenges that may be experienced by all teachers in Allegheny County and beyond, such as issues with district/LEA mandates, policies and expectations; issues with staffing and turnover; and inadequate pay. Compounded with the challenges unique to Black teachers, they further impact Black teachers’ experiences and contribute to Black teachers leaving the profession.
- Despite the numerous challenges they face, several current Black teachers expressed that they plan to remain in the profession in Allegheny County, and shared the factors that contribute to their desire to continue teaching. These include their love for students; strong school leaders and positive school culture; supportive and affirming networks; and teachers’ investment in their careers.
The report is supplemented by a brief, Allegheny County Teacher and Student Demographics: 2022-23 Update, which offers an analysis of the growing disparity between demographics of students and teachers.