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Suburban Oak Park District Details Its Route to Diversifying the Teacher Applicant Pool

Carol Kelley & Monica Rosen

Carol Kelley, superintendent of Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Oak Park, Ill., called for more significant recruitment of racial and ethnic diversity among teachers nationwide at Saturday’s AASA national conference session, “Recruitment and Hiring for Diversity and Equity.”

Her school district could offer a model for how to make that happen.

Another panelist, Carrie Kamm, senior director of equity at Oak Park Elementary School District, further explained that schools in her district in the suburbs west of Chicago, are disproportionate in their makeup when it comes to race and ethnicity of teachers. The percentage of new teacher hires of color has increased 10% in two years, from 27% of the full district teaching staff in 2016-17 to 37% in 2018-19.

Nearly 60 percent of a school’s impact on student achievement is attributed to teacher and principal effectiveness, Kamm said. Teachers have a lasting impact on students’ life outcomes, which means effective principals have a major responsibility to attract and keep higher-quality teachers that reflect the racial and ethnic backgrounds of students.

“These will be hard truths for the principals, but this is something they need to hear,” Kelley said.

Monica Rosen, CEO of Alma Advisory Group in Chicago, conducted a study of the school district’s human resources practices. The study analyzed Oak Park’s recent employment picture against benchmark districts nationwide in terms of  diversity in hiring staff. What the research showed was that Oak Park attracted more than enough applicants overall, including applicants of color, yet the applicant pool was primarily white.

To increase the number of teachers of color hired, Rosen told the district it would need to increase the diversity of the applicant pool.

To effectively recruit and hire a more diverse teaching force, Kelley, Kamm and Rosen said they put in place  four strategies in Oak Park:

  • Design an employee referral process and work with the community to encourage a wider array of applicants to apply;
  • Refine processes and tools so they are aligned to competency when hiring staff;
  • Monitor the performance of the human resources department to ensure desired results for recruiting and hiring; and
  •  Put in place new recruitment activities to identify a wider teaching applicant pool.

When they applied these strategies to teacher hiring in Oak Park, a significant increase in ethnic and racial diversity resulted among the new teachers hired.

(Carina Muniz is a sophomore at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif., and an intern with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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