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Superintendents' Forum focuses on hiring diverse teachers

Erin England
October 31, 2019

Former Obama staffer speaks at inaugural event

“The answer is in plain sight around how to transform diversity in the teaching profession,” said Eric Waldo, executive director of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, and speaker at the College of Education and Human Ecology’s October 23 inaugural Superintendents’ Forum.

The forum, engineered by the college’s suburban superintendent in residence, John Marschhausen, focused on how to attract Black and Latino teachers in Ohio.

A former teacher turned policy and operations professional, Waldo said his work is to inspire all students to take charge of their future by completing postsecondary education. His talk, “In Plain Sight: Courage and the Future of the Teaching Profession,” focused on laying out a roadmap to more accessible education.

“Today, only 9% of bottom-income-quartile students have achieved a bachelor's degree by the age of 24,” said Waldo in his presentation. “Compare that to 77% of upper-income-quartile students who have achieved a bachelor's degree by age 24.”

A moderator at a podium asks questions to a four-person panel
Dean Don Pope-Davis asks questions to a four-person panel during the Superintendents' Forum. L to R: Eric Waldo; Donna Ford, EHE distinguished professor of special education; Ruth Lowery, interim chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning; and Lori Patton Davis, chair of the Department of Educational Studies.

Waldo said that if most low-income students are not able to achieve a bachelor’s degree, school districts cannot hire them, which narrows the teacher pipeline.

“We know the value of teachers. We know the value of education,” he said. “So the question comes to us, what sort of political will are we going to muster to do about it collectively?”

Policy approaches to broadening the pipeline

Waldo presented approaches suggested by educational policy influencers to not only gain more teachers of color but also to ensure that they stay in the profession and thrive.

He named making teachers of color feel more valued in their jobs and affirming their experiences rather than dismissing them.

Waldo also challenged school administrators to create and articulate a policy in their school districts for how many teachers of color should be recruited and retained.

“We actually know what we need to do to change the teaching profession, to improve outcomes for students,” he said. “In almost every policy area I can think of, we know what's wrong. We know how to fix it — It's going to take money. It's going to take courage. It is going to take fixing broken systems, including our politics.”

Five people standing together
Pope-Davis, Ford, Waldo, Lowery and Patton Davis.

After Waldo spoke, he participated in a panel with Distinguished Professor Donna Ford, Department of Educational Studies Chair and Professor Lori Patton Davis and Department of Teaching and Learning Interim Chair and Professor Ruth Lowery. The panel was moderated by Dean Don Pope-Davis.

Marschhausen, also superintendent of Hilliard City Schools, welcomed superintendents and administrative representatives from about 20 Ohio school districts.

Dean Pope-Davis said he wants to advance the connections. “This is an effort we intend to do every year to start something new, something different, that engages our college with the community, particularly our various school districts, in new and different ways.”

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