Teacher Diversity Increased in Massachusetts During COVID-19 Pandemic

New Analysis Explores Changes in Teacher Turnover in 2020

New research from Boston University’s Wheelock Education Policy Center (WEPC) finds increases in the racial and ethnic diversity of teachers hired for the 2020-2021 Massachusetts school year. This was particularly true in schools serving the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Latinx students, where roughly 41% of newly hired teachers were people of color. These increases combined with lower turnover among Black and Latinx teachers resulted in teachers of color comprising a larger share of the workforce.

The research also found overall teacher turnover in Massachusetts was largely unchanged amidst the pandemic, although some school districts experienced substantially higher turnover than others, particularly in the western part of the state. Notably, turnover decreased at schools with larger populations of economically disadvantaged students, as well as among early-career teachers and those who are Black or Hispanic/Latinx. These groups comprise the schools and teachers that have historically reported the highest rates of turnover.

“Given all the disruptions and challenges that the pandemic created, there were concerns that we might see a major spike in teacher turnover,” said Jeffrey C. Riley, Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “It’s reassuring to see that this has not been the case in Massachusetts so far and that in some instances, schools were actually able to narrow historic gaps in teacher retention.”

The research was led by Boston University WEPC-affiliated faculty Andrew Bacher-Hicks and Olivia Chi, using teacher workforce data provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Their analysis compared data from the 2020-2021 school year to data from the four previous academic years to evaluate the extent to which the pandemic affected teacher turnover and hiring in the short term. Future analysis will explore the pandemic’s longer term effects on Massachusetts’ teacher workforce, including an in-depth study of the impact of the state’s new emergency license.

This research, along with other WEPC pandemic-related releases, will be featured at an upcoming event, Charting a Course: Navigating Towards Influential Pandemic-era Data and Research Insights, on Thursday, November 4. The event is open to the public. Event details and free registration are available at https://bit.ly/WEPC-ChartingaCourse.

View the complete analysis here.

About the Wheelock Education Policy Center

The Boston University Wheelock Educational Policy Center (WEPC) conducts and disseminates rigorous, policy-relevant education research in partnership with local, state, and federal policymakers and stakeholders to improve educational opportunities and holistic outcomes for underserved students. For more information, visit www.wheelockpolicycenter.org.