Addressing Racial Equity Can Boost Well-being Among School Staff and Students of Color
Longstanding patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination, both inside and outside of schools, may negatively impact the well-being of school staff of color and contribute to higher rates of attrition than among their White counterparts—a problem the pandemic may be exacerbating. State and local leaders can help by incorporating racial equity components into school employee wellness efforts to ensure that these initiatives address the specific needs of teachers of color and distribute resources and demands fairly across all staff.
One way that leaders can advance racial equity in staff wellness programs is by helping schools improve resources and operations. Three in four Black and Latinx teachers work in schools with a high percentage of students of color. These schools are often under-resourced and offer lower salaries and less administrative support—workplace conditions that directly impact job satisfaction and psychological well-being. Education leaders can improve school conditions for teachers of color by addressing common sources of workplace stress that are especially pronounced in under-resourced schools. Reducing class sizes, improving access to technology and other instructional resources, implementing restorative rather than exclusionary discipline practices to promote positive school climates, and granting teachers greater professional autonomy and voice in decision making are increasingly recognized as effective strategies to promote the wellness and retention of a culturally diverse teacher workforce. Furthermore, districts can recognize the value that teachers of color bring to schools by providing financial compensation for the extra duties they disproportionately perform, such as mentorship, translation, and community outreach and engagement.
State and local education leaders can further assist in creating the kind of safe and supportive schools required for equitable employee wellness by providing professional development that builds the cultural competence of administrators, teachers, and staff. Critical topics for professional development include the impact of systems of power on individual and organizational attitudes and behaviors, the role of implicit biases on school culture and staff relationships, and ways to identify and confront inequities in school policies and practices. To be most effective, the professional development should meet quality standards—specifically, it should be evidence-based, provide opportunities for reflection, occur within a collaborative culture with shared accountability for improvement, and be linked to clear goals and participants’ daily practice. Such efforts will not only improve the wellness of teachers and staff but also the well-being and success of the students they serve.