Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Logo
Educator Effectiveness


Spotlight on Racial Equity

In Massachusetts and across the nation, educators are coming off of several years like no other — years that have asked more of teachers and leaders than ever before. Burnout and exhaustion are real concerns as districts work to support and retain educators. Nationwide, approximately 8 percent of teachers leave the profession each year, and another 8 percent switch schools or districts. These rates are higher in schools in districts serving more students of color, and among teachers of color compared to their white peers. This higher attrition rate, in addition to the relatively low number of educators of color in our state, spotlights the urgent need to build anti-racist school cultures that support and elevate educators of color.

Building Systems and Schools that Support Educators of Color

The responsibility for retaining educators of color lies with state-, district- and school-level leaders, who work to build inclusive school cultures that support and value educators of color. This work requires adaptive work of individual reflection and interrogation of one's own mindset, action and biases, and the technical work of changing practices and systems. DESE supports include:

  • Influence 100 is a two-year, no-cost program that has two components: a fellowship program for rising leaders who desire to move into the superintendent role in the next five years, and support for participating districts as they work to become more culturally responsive and diversify their educator workforce.
  • The Teacher Diversification Professional Learning Community (previously the Diversity Network) is a yearlong professional development opportunity which supports and enhances school and district understanding of the elements needed to develop and implement a comprehensive talent diversification strategy (including recruitment, selection, and retention) centered on cultural proficiency.
  • The Teacher Diversification Guidebook details four key components of designing and implementing a culturally responsive talent diversification strategy alongside district-created artifact templates, in service of achievement and equitable outcomes for all students, particularly students of color. The 4 key components are as follows:
    • Understand why teacher racial and ethnic diversity matters to your students and district.
    • Audit your current talent management processes, understand the experience of your stakeholders, and set goals.
    • Adjust your talent practices.
    • Create a long-term diversification strategy.
Ricardo Dobles
"It is important to be direct and transparent in the desire to engage in anti-racist practices. Yes, we want to be authentic and affirming, but, as an administrator of color, nothing is more affirming to me than when the leadership of my district acknowledges that past practices have fallen short with respect to this goal."
Ricardo Dobles

Affinity Spaces

Support staff of color in your school and/or district to create racial affinity spaces, which are ongoing, protected, separate spaces for educators of color to come together in community and mutual support. Given the unique challenges facing educators of color, and when paired with ongoing systems-level work towards anti-racism, affinity spaces can be important networks for educators of color to collaborate and support each other through problems of practice. Learn more about how Ashley Davis and other educators at the Pauline D. Shaw Elementary School in Boston leverage affinity spaces to work towards an anti-racist school and workplace on the Equity and Instruction blog.

Dr. Sana Shaikh
"In my time in education, it's been predominantly a white space, and so it's been really powerful to be around folx who have lived experiences like mine. It becomes exhausting to name the challenges but it's really reassuring to be in a space where everyone has experienced what it feels like to be 'othered', and also simultaneously figure out, 'How can we collectivize our strength to make education more inclusive for kids who look like us?'"
Dr. Sana Shaikh

COVID-19 Considerations

Focus on Educator Well-Being

  • Educator Mental Health: Research suggests that many educators leave their positions due to stress, which is of particular concern in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders can go beyond advocating for educator self-care to create systems to reduce teacher stress, such as:
    • Asking teachers what will support their well-being through surveys and check-ins
    • Creating tap-in/tap-out systems that provide teachers space to self-regulate during the school day
    • Building time for collaboration and planning within the school day
    • Supporting teachers to set boundaries and protect their time (e.g., setting an expectation that educators do not need to answer emails on evenings/weekends, providing flexibility with expectations for grading and lesson planning)

Best Practices

Make Retention A Goal

  • The cost of turnover: Teacher turnover is expensive. According to the Learning Policy Institute, urban districts spend, on average, more than $20,000 on every new hire, and it takes two years to recover that expense. Identifying and integrating strong retention strategies into your strategic plan not only ensures a strong teacher workforce for years to come, but also allows schools and districts to direct funds to teaching and learning.
  • Explore this Turnover Calculator to estimate the cost of attrition in your school or district.

Invest in Strong Induction & Mentoring

  • Teachers who experience strong induction and mentoring are twice as likely to stay in the profession as those who do not. Research suggests that this impact is even greater for teachers of color.

Support Continued Growth & Recognize Leadership

  • High-quality, teacher-led professional learning opportunities are integral to supporting the long-term career path for educators by providing them with opportunities to deepen skills, adopt new and innovative approaches to teaching, and share their own expertise with others. See the Professional Learning section of the Talent Guide for strategies and resources to support a high-quality PD program. Above all, ask teachers how they are doing and what they need to be successful.
  • Recognize and honor their expertise. Identify and support opportunities for highly effective teachers to expand their impact and influence. In addition to professional advancement and certification programs like National Board Certification, Massachusetts runs numerous programs to elevate the voice and expertise of effective educators, including:
  • Ensure equitable compensation. School and district leaders can also support educators' well-being by ensuring they are equitably compensated for their work.
    • Analyze compensation data across lines of identity (e.g., race, class, gender, ethnicity) to identify inequities, then take action to address these issues.
    • When possible, compensate educators for extra responsibilities and leadership opportunities, such as leading professional development, family or community engagement events, and serving on hiring committees. Check out information on Boston Collegiate Charter School's multilingualism stipend , which compensates staff for translating family communications.
    • Consider providing non-monetary benefits, such as flexibility in work hours or time off during non-instructional time.

Principals are Key

  • Evidence continues to point to principals as a key factor for teachers in their decision to stay or leave a school. According to How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research, strong principals have positive impacts on teacher retention (as well as a wide range of student outcomes) through four main contributions:
    • Instructionally-focused interactions with teachers, such as instructional coaching and evaluation
    • Building a productive school climate that fosters trust, collaboration, and continuous growth
    • Facilitating productive collaboration and professional learning communities
    • Managing personnel and resources strategically
  • The #1 reason new MA educators of color cited for leaving the profession in 2018 was administrative leadership. Principals are positioned to shape strong, relationship-based, supportive school cultures that affirm and celebrate the identities of educators of color. This work begins on a personal or adaptive level, with leaders learning about the many ways racism can show up in schools and in their own mindsets and actions, adopting ongoing, adaptive personal and professional reflection, and taking concrete steps toward equitable action. The DESE model Principal Induction and Mentoring Handbook supports this adaptive work and its connection to school practices and policies.
Alicia Thomas is a former InSPIRED Fellow, Principal and Teacher Advisory Cabinet member, and educator in Holyoke.

Questions to Consider

  • What does the data say about educator retention in our school and district? What disparities, if any, exist within that data (race and ethnicity, gender, subject area, grade level, years of experience, compensation)?
  • What am I doing to engage in ongoing learning, reflection, and interrogation of my own biases, mindsets, and actions?
  • What targeted and intentional actions is our school or district taking to retain and support educators of color?
  • How are we centering the voices, experiences and perspectives of educators in the planning and evolution of our policies and practices? Ask them what they need to stay.
Additional Resources


For their contributions to this module, we'd like to thank DESE's Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign.

Please contact us at with questions, feedback, or for additional support and partnership around any of the practices and resources included in this guide.

Last Updated: August 30, 2022

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.