The Best of Us S2/E10: DEI and the Educator Workforce, with Sharif El-Mekki and Lisa Lachlan

In this episode of The Best of Us, we discuss "An Effective Workforce is a Diverse Workforce" with co-authors Sharif El-Mekki and Lisa Lachlan. These two scholars’ work centers on the critical need for diversity in K-12 and practical ways for education leaders to tackle the systemic issues impacting it. 

The conversation covers the historical context of DEI, the impact of educator shortages on students of color, and the proven benefits of a racially diverse teaching staff. Sharif and Lisa strategize on integrated approaches to recruitment, retention, and professional development, highlighting successful ways to attract teachers of color by respecting their lived experiences and reducing barriers to entry. 

We also cover multi-level systemic change, DEI-focused professional learning, and everyday ways to create a more equitable school environment through diverse leadership.

Listen now:


Overview of the paper (00:01:50) Sharif and Lisa introduce the paper and discuss the importance of diversifying the educator workforce.

Historical roots of the problem (00:06:07) The impact of educator shortages on students of color and the bias and systemic inequities in recruitment and retention.

Examples of successful programs (00:09:17) Grow your own and apprenticeship programs that respect lived experiences and reduce barriers to entry.

Interrupting bias in hiring (00:14:08) The guidebook created with the Connecticut Department of Education to address bias at individual, educator, school, and system levels.

Culturally responsive teacher training (00:19:05) The importance of recognizing and addressing biases in teacher training and preparation for culturally responsive teaching.

The invisible tax (00:20:11) Discussion on the invisible tax placed on teachers of color and the impact of biases on their roles and career progression.

Culturally responsive education (00:23:05) Importance of culturally responsive and relevant practices in education, research findings, and the need for better integration into pre-service programs.

Cultural proficiency continuum (00:25:54) Understanding cultural proficiency as a continuum and the need for reflective practice and feedback loops for educators' growth.

Mentorship and systemic support (00:29:36) Challenges faced by teachers of color, shared responsibility in mentorship, and the need for systemic support and recognition of their roles.

Equity and systemic change (00:33:48) The value of roles and financial incentivization, leveraging technology, and collective commitment to equity for systemic change in the teaching workforce.

The audit of public school landscape (00:37:33) Discussion on the lack of diversity in leadership roles and decision-making positions in public schools.

Culturally proficient curricula and decision-making (00:38:48) Importance of intentional decision-making in developing culturally proficient curricula and making purchasing decisions.

Professional learning standards and equity-based practices (00:39:44) The significance of investing in professional learning rooted in equity and using standards as a backbone for improving instructional practices.

Vision for addressing educator shortages and diversity (00:41:46) The end goal of an integrated and systemic approach involving inclusive problem-solving and the critical role of communities of color.

Inclusion of diverse voices and leadership in education (00:43:07) The importance of amplifying the voices of teachers of color and promoting diversity in leadership and decision-making roles.

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