A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
Aligning North Stars
Human resources directors and university collaborate for Latinx candidate recruitment
By Natasha Neumann and Andrea Somoza-Norton | May | June 2024
The following journey was set in motion in 2021 when California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo received a grant to support the formation of a new partnership with our regional school districts’ human resources administrators.
The California State University Center for Transformational Educator Preparation Programs grant, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to support California State University campuses in specific areas of effort around the recruitment, preparation and retention of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to educate our increasingly diverse state’s student population. According to the California Department of Education’s 2022-23 K-12 enrollment data state report, 56 percent of students are Hispanic or Latino. Our team focused on Key Transformational Element 1 out of the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI): Building university and school district partnerships. California State University Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) form deep partnerships with school districts and create a shared vision of effective K-12 instruction that includes a mutual commitment to the recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers who are BIPOC (CTEPP, 2021).
Realizations before the launch After participating in several faculty groups centered on diversifying our teacher candidate applicants within our university credentialing programs to better reflect our student populations, we recognized we alone could not shift who leads our classrooms without engaging with district partners. We initially thought a diverse teacher workforce was dependent on who was graduating from our credentialing programs. We quickly realized we alone as a credentialing institution would not wholly affect who was hired into our local districts. After all, the local K-12 districts are the organizations that ultimately hire our teacher candidates for their first teaching positions (Darling-Hammond & Carver-Thomas, 2016). What began as an internal investigation grounded in improvement science (Bryk et al., 2015) within our institution grew into a strategic and collaborative effort with district human resources administrators to elevate the employment rate of Latinx teacher candidates. The team realized we needed district partners committed to hiring Latinx candidates to launch our project addressing this equity gap. Further, through systems investigation and current literature (Gist & Bristol, 2022), we could deepen our mutual understanding of diverse teacher recruitment and retention practices. After all, as a credentialing institution preparing teaching candidates for their first job placement and a long, fruitful career in education, we are a step in the pathway of a teacher. We envisioned the hiring by local educational agencies (LEAs) to be the next step in a handshake rather than a handoff when centering teacher candidates in our collective work. The idea and image of a handshake is a mutual commitment between the credentialing agent and the hiring agent to nurture and continuously prepare teacher candidates. If we could strengthen our partnerships with our local LEAs centering Latinx teacher recruitment and retention, we might have a chance at retaining Latinx educators for the long term.
The North Star, set for June 2026, illuminates ambitious goals — to elevate the employment rate of Latinx candidates from 24 percent to an inspiring 50 percent, with a parallel endeavor to increase retention beyond one year from 50 percent to a remarkable 75 percent. To achieve this North Star objective, we needed to forge a relationship with school district human resources directors via the county office of education, which became the first step to engage in this critical work centered around equity in hiring.
Spotlight on disparities: A critical self-examination The second phase of the journey involved a critical examination of internal data. The CSU EdQ dashboard became a compass, navigating through admission data, candidates’ completer surveys, and insights from other school of education projects’ grant managers. The revelation was stark — Latinx candidates faced lower employment rates compared to their White counterparts. The spotlight turned towards the preparation process, with a specific focus on job searches, interviews and clinical placements.
We began in earnest by sharing our own internal data about the whiteness of our teacher candidates entering our programs. Of the Latinx and BIPOC candidates completing our programs, many were either not getting hired in the LEAs or they were selecting to leave the area. We presented our internal investigations discussing candidate completer survey responses, which revealed qualitative data about why candidates may be leaving the area. Several responses pointed to feelings of not belonging within the community. Additionally, some candidates had misconceptions about jobs available in the area. For example, one candidate said, “There are not enough jobs locally.” This statement led the teams to strategize around outreach and marketing for recruitment. To establish trust, we shared our challenge areas, such as strategic clinical practice placement for teacher candidates. We invited our human resources colleagues to share their hiring challenges and priorities for the current school year. After the initial meeting, we all agreed to continue the conversation of strategic recruitment and retention of Latinx candidates.
Collaboration with K-12 partners: A strategic move In an effort to tighten our candidates’ professional pathway from finishing our credential program to receiving an offer of employment to new teacher induction, we wanted to first explore what the existing pathway looked like. How much collaboration, if any, was happening between our institutions to center Latinx hiring? The mission was clear — increase the employment rate of Latinx candidates. To turn this vision into reality, the focus turned to building relationships, not only within the institution but extending arms to school district HR directors via the county office of education. This initial step was deemed crucial to engage in the vital work of reshaping the landscape of educator preparation, recruitment and retention.
To establish common goals in our partnerships, we engaged in deep reflection and affinity diagramming activities to identify one or two goals. Open-ended questions such as those listed below warmed the conversation and kept it moving.
Current status: • What is currently being done, if anything, around diverse hiring in your organization currently? • … Specifically around Latinx/BIPOC teacher candidate hiring?
How’s it going? • What is working well (WW)? • What can be done differently (DD)?
Forward motion: • What can improve/shift around diverse hiring? • What do you need to get there?
In addition to in-person monthly meetings, a smaller subgroup convened twice over Zoom to hone in on our North Star goal coupled with strategies for Latinx recruitment and retention.
An additional action item was to survey our LEA human resources administrators to mutually identify one recruitment goal and one retention goal to guide our work towards our North Star of increasing Latinx hiring. The recruitment topic overwhelmingly selected was, “How can we increase our Latinx candidate pools for classified and certificated positions?” The retention topic the administrators selected from their own list of priorities was, “Once Latinx candidates are hired, how can we better understand how to keep them with us?” To seek answers to these questions, we engaged in round-table discussions. Colliding both of our North Stars to elevate Latinx hiring created the energy boost to move the project forward.
Honest conversations echoed around equitable practices in recruitment, hiring and retention. Data emerged as a valuable ally, with both qualitative and quantitative practices shedding light on areas that demanded attention.
Learning through vulnerability: Unveiling gaps A significant learning emerged — unintentionality in clinical placements and a lack of awareness among HR directors about the candidates on campuses. The realization that HR directors, though eager to hire Latinx candidates, lacked awareness of the actual hires emphasized the need for a paradigm shift. The journey into Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in recruitment and hiring practices unfolded, demanding attention to previously unnoticed gaps. Monthly meetings and honest conversations with the county HR teams became the space for change, and these convenings led to collegial relationships. Honest conversations echoed around equitable practices in recruitment, hiring and retention. Data emerged as a valuable ally, with both qualitative and quantitative practices shedding light on areas that demanded attention. A key idea that surfaced was to introduce our clinical practice placement coordinator to the HR teams in the room. We all realized we could do better at placing our Latinx teachers in classrooms with Latinx students and teachers, as well as introducing them to the principal. The collaboration extended beyond mere rhetoric, shaping the way for a more inclusive future for our Latinx candidates. Success beckons The pinnacle of success materialized in the form of new relationships and an exclusive entry into the realm of HR regional directors. The collaboration transcended mere partnership, entering the annual agenda, and securing attendance at key meetings with 10 school districts’ HR directors and assistant superintendents. This success was not a stroke of luck; it was crafted through perseverance, a data-driven focus and a shared “no-blame attitude.” Instead of wasting time blaming each other for recruitment gaps, we agreed that the focal point was finding root causes and working together toward practical solutions. Fostering continued success: A commitment to equity To ensure continued success and a lasting impact, communication became the linchpin. Periodic dialogues with the HR county director ensured a consistent presence in monthly meetings with a reserved spot on the morning agenda. The curiosity of the HR Forum about this transformative work ignited a commitment to foster the relationship further. Progress was evident as the HR Forum now not only knows but can define the term BIPOC, showcasing an evolving awareness and understanding. First, we had to become fluent in equity core concepts to avoid applying superficial equity to gaps in Latinx candidate recruitment. Neglecting the time to build knowledge and fluency about equity will result in behavioral shifts without a true understanding of the deeper meaning of inequities (Safir & Dugan, 2021). Unveiling progress: From unawareness to recognition As the quest to remedy the equity gap continues, the impact becomes tangible. The HR Forum is delving into clinical placement timelines and seeking insights into the candidates. The university clinical placement coordinator, once a stranger to hiring leaders, now shares a personal connection. The bridge of awareness has been constructed, connecting individuals who previously operated in silos. The combination of the essential role of HR in diversifying the teacher workforce with institutional partners has led to a win-win outcome for everyone, especially for Latinx candidates. The journey of transforming educator preparation is a testament to the power of collaboration, data-driven focus and a commitment to change. Based on our experiences with this project, shifting recruitment and retention practices are better done across institutions that prepare and nurture new teachers. As our institution and partner LEAs continue to stride towards their collective North Star, the echoes of progress resound, shaping an educational landscape that is not just inclusive but a true reflection of our diverse community. The work continues. References Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (n.d.). North America. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/our-work/places/north-america Bryk, A.S., Gomez, L., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. (2015). Learning to improve: how America’s schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Education Press. CSU CTEPP Transforming Teaching and Learning Community. (2024 January, 25). Transforming Teaching and Learning Community, TTLC https://ctepp.calstate.edu/transforming-teaching-and-learning-community California Department of Education (n.d.). 2023-2024 Enrollment by Ethnicity and Grade. State Report. https://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/dqcensus/EnrEthGrd.aspx?cds=00&agglevel=state&year=2022-23&ro=y California State University (n.d.) Educator Quality Center. https://www.calstate.edu/impact-of-the-csu/teacher-education/educator-quality-center California State University. (n.d.). About Center for Transformational Educator Preparation Programs. Cal State Center for Transformational Educator Preparation Programs. https://ctepp.calstate.edu/about Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). Diversifying the field: Barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers of color and how to overcome them. Learning Policy Institute. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED582730.pdf Dixon, R.D., Griffin, A.R., & Teoh, M.B. (2019). “If you listen, we will stay: Why teachers of color leave and how to disrupt teacher turnover.”, The Education Trust & Teach Plus, Washington, D.C. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED603193.pdf Gist, C. D., & Bristol, T. J. (Eds.). (2022). Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers. American Educational Research Association. Safir, S., & Dugan, J. (2021). Street data: A next-generation model for equity, pedagogy, and school transformation. Corwin. Sharp, L. A., Carruba-Rogel, Z., & Diego-Medrano, E. (2019). Strengths and shortcomings of a teacher preparation program: Learning from racially diverse preservice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education and Educators, 8(3), 281–301. Full text available from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1240079 Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., and Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. https://doi.org/10.54300/247.242. Natasha Neumann, Ed.D., is an assistant professor and co-coordinator of the M.S. Educational Leadership and Administration Program at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Andrea Somoza-Norton, Ed.D., is an associate professor and co-coordinator of the M.S. Educational Leadership and Administration Program at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Combined, they have more than four decades of service in K-12 education as teachers and administrators at the local and state level.