IPS principal weighs in on how to hire, retain Black educators

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Allen Mickens is earning his doctorate in education from Indiana University.

He is an Indianapolis Public Schools principal at Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58, and, as part of his dissertation, he did a quantitative study on hiring and retaining Black educators.

Mickens conducted his study by looking at test scores from Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN) and concluded that disparities in proficiency remain between white students and students of color.

“I’ve always wanted to be an educator and I was very aware of my identity as a Black man, as a Black educator,” Mickens said, “so one of the recommendations that I shared was at the state level. We are in a crisis, and I’m waiting for the state to share that we are in a crisis when it comes to students of color and the academic gap that exists.”

Of 79,120 full-time educators in Indiana, only 4.6% are Black, which is about 3,640, according to the Indiana Department of Education data sourced from the 2019-2020 school year. Black educators come second-highest to white educators for the state.

  • White full time educators – 92.1%
  • Black full time educators – 4.6%
  • Hispanic full time educators – 1.8%
  • Multiracial full time educators – 0.7%
  • Asian full time educators – 0.5%
  • Native American full time educators – 0.3%

The United Negro College Fund released a recent snapshot of Black Students and Indianapolis Schools that shows improvement of how Marion County schools serve Black students, but also recommends more to be done to fill opportunity gaps. Marion County serves the largest number of Black students for the state.

Eleven school districts in Marion County serve 36% of Black students, and 41% of Black students attend public charter schools in the county. The student-to-teacher ratio in Marion County is 14.8, compared to 15.7 for Indiana, and 2% of all Indiana teachers are Black, according to recently updated data.

  • White teachers: 82%
  • White students: 34%
  • Black teachers: 12%
  • Black students: 34%
  • Hispanic teachers: 3%
  • Hispanic students: 21%

“Studies show students of color, their proficiency levels increase when they have teachers of color,” Mickens said.

He said he believes strategies similar to the IPS Rebuilding Stronger reorganization plan at the state level could lure more Black teachers into the profession. He also recommends making education more attractive for future teachers.

Micken’s father, who was also an educator, died this year. To have someone positive to look up gave him the drive and determination to be successful. He wanted to have that same impact felt on students that look like him.

“So, (the) thing I talked about was investing, and you see our district has invested in professional development and training of teachers around best practices culturally, responsive teaching to make the students, to help encourage them. ‘Oh, I actually want to teach, because my experience is a good one,” whereas for so long the experience of our students has not been a good experience,” Mickens said.

So, by being there for students, they may want to be there for future students by entering the teaching field.

“Right? Because we may host hiring fairs for teachers of color but if we’re hosting these fairs but there’s no one to attend them, now we have to look at, what is the root cause analysis,” Mickens said.