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The Baltimore Sun

Howard County schools seek to boost staff diversity as teachers remain majority white

By Ethan Ehrenhaft, Baltimore Sun,

Clarksville, Md..--9/5/19-- A school bus drops off a River Hill High School student. Howard County public schools contemplating a proposal to redistribute some 7,400 students to different schools in part to address the economic segregation that leaves poor students concentrated in some schools. ***Credit line should read: Baltimore Sun Staff Photo. Do not use photographer's name for print or online publication on 9/2 through 9/9/2019. Thank you.*** Baltimore Sun/TNS

While Howard County’s population has grown increasingly diverse in recent years, the Howard public school system’s teaching staff has remained predominantly white.

In 2022, 78.6% of all certificated teaching staff identified as white, according to the HCPSS Office of Human Resources’s latest annual report . Per the report, Black educators account for 10.7% of teaching staff, 5% of teachers identify as Asian and 5% are Hispanic or Latino.

About 49% of the county’s overall population, according to 2022 U.S. Census estimates , identifies as white alone, and not Hispanic or Latino, while about 21% of the population is Black, 20% is Asian and about 8% is Hispanic or Latino.

As part of ongoing efforts to boost teacher diversity and address vacancies, the school system will host an Educators of Color Recruitment Event on March 24 in Columbia.

“This is something that’s important to us because the fabric of Howard County is so diverse,” said Ella Bradley, the school system’s human capital and talent acquisition coordinator. “It’s so important for individuals to see people that look like them and it’s also important for people to see people that don’t look like them.”

The school system’s approximately 57,000 students reflect even more diversity than the general population in the county. In fiscal 2022 , the student body was 23.4% Asian, 24.8% Black, 13.1% Latino and 32% white.

The demographic disparities between teachers and students persist across grade levels . At Marriotts Ridge High School, 87% of certificated teachers in 2022 were white despite white students making up about 35% of the school’s population.

Wilde Lake High School junior Abisola Ayoola said she had her first Black science teacher in eighth grade and has never had a Black math teacher.

“The representation just was not there,” said Ayoola, 17, who is Black and serves as the student member of the county school board.

Ayoola said when students have teachers with whom they can can identify it helps build trust and makes staff feel more approachable. She said she thinks seeing increased diversity at the head of the classroom would encourage more students to pursue careers in education.

A 2017 Johns Hopkins University study found that Black students are more likely to graduate high school and attend college when they have at least one Black elementary school teacher.

“It just helps learning overall to know that students are able to relate to their teachers,” Ayoola said.

Howard County is not alone in its lack of teacher diversity. In 2022, 70.6% of all Maryland teachers were white, as were 64% of new hires, according to a state Department of Education report .

The state has taken a variety of approaches to reinvigorate and diversify the teaching pipeline, including requiring counties to adopt $60,000 starting salaries by July 2026 under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation. But officials stress that salaries alone are not enough to get future generations excited about teaching.

“How can we provide enough information to families so that students can choose very diverse careers, including teaching?” said at-large school board member Linfeng Chen. “It’s rewarding, not just monetarily.”

At the March recruitment event, prospective educators of color will have an opportunity to hear from current teachers and students and tour several schools.

“There are a lot of individuals who are unfamiliar with Howard County and think that Howard County is just one aspect,” Bradley said. “What better way to let people know who we are and what we believe in than to invite them into our living room?”

The event was first held in 2019 and drew about 150 individuals, 10-15% of whom ended up being hired, Bradley said.

Her aim is to cultivate applicants who are hungry to spend their whole careers in the district. Across Maryland last year, Black and Latino teachers had attrition rates of 12.3% and 10.7%, compared with 8.5% for their white peers, according to MSDE .

Bradley entered the school system in 2001 as an elementary school teacher and has never looked back.

“What’s kept me here are the people,” said Bradley, whose three children now attend county schools. “When I think about the Howard County school system as my employer, it’s my second home. It’s my family.”

Bradley encourages candidates to get their feet in the door at whatever level they’re comfortable with —whether it’s as a lunch and recess monitor, student assistant or paraeducator. She said she hopes as more positions diversify so will the pool of students interested in becoming educators.

“If someone who looked like me was such an inspiration to me, it’s more likely that I will return to that environment, because I, too, was inspired and I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life,” Bradley said.

Registration is required for the Educators of Color Recruitment Event. To register and learn more, visit: .

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