You are here

New Report Explores Relational Trust, Race, and Teacher Retention in WI Schools

Friday, November 22, 2019
Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Research Partnership (WEERP) logo
New Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Research Partnership (WEERP) report finds low trust between educators from different racial groups partially explains both the lack of teachers of color across most Wisconsin schools and high teacher turnover in schools with the greatest number of students of color.


Wisconsin schools struggle to provide students of color with equitable education opportunities. Even though research has demonstrated the importance of students of color having at least one teacher of color in their education careers, with students more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college (Gershenson et al. 2018), 86% of all Wisconsin schools do not have any African American teachers and 83% do not have any Hispanic or Latino* teachers. Thus, most of the 33% students of color that make up Wisconsin schools will never experience a teacher from their same racial background.

Within urban districts, the challenge is about teacher hiring and retention more generally, especially in schools with a majority of students of color. Historically, these schools have the greatest need for effective teaching, but have the hardest time attracting and retaining effective teachers, regardless of race (Hanushek et al. 2004; Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond 2017). In these schools, students of color are more likely to be taught by less effective teachers (novice, long-term substitutes, and emergency certified teachers).

Together, these processes disproportionally impact students of color in Wisconsin and contribute to the widening racial achievement gap.

Study Questions

In this report, WEERP explores relational trust as a possible explanation for why: 1) most Wisconsin schools do not have any teachers of color and 2) the schools with the most students of color have the most difficulty retaining teachers.


African American and Hispanic or Latino* teachers, who combined are only 4% of all Wisconsin teachers, have lower trust with other teachers and are considerably more likely to transfer or leave public education than White teachers. After two years, only 52% of novice African American teachers and 63% of Hispanic or Latino* teachers, compared to 81% of White teachers, remained in Wisconsin public education. The lower retention in public education at least partially explains the shortage of teachers of color in schools across the state.

WEERP also found White teachers reported less trust with principals and teachers of color. Related to this, White teachers were more likely to transfer out of schools with more educators of color, which typically have more students of color. The lower relational trust helped explain the teacher retention challenges experienced in schools comprised almost entirely of students of color. Since 95% of all Wisconsin teachers are White, lower White teacher retention results in an overall shortage of teachers in these schools.

These results provide some direction for schools to begin to address the large Wisconsin race achievement gap. Teachers from different cultural backgrounds must learn to work together more effectively so that more teachers of color are retained across Wisconsin and teacher retention improves in schools with more students of color. Improving teacher retention will provide students of color with more equitable education opportunities.

Read the report: Race, Relational Trust, and Teacher Retention in Wisconsin Schools

* DPI uses the terms Hispanic or Latino aligned to the federal reporting codes.

The Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Research Partnership (WEERP) is a research-practitioner partnership between the Office of Socially Responsible Evaluation in Education at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, The Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. WEERP conducts rigorous and relevant research to inform the efforts of Wisconsin Educators to improve educator effectiveness and achievement for all students.


Carver-Thomas, Desiree, and Linda Darling-Hammond. 2017. Teacher Turnover: Why it Matters and What We Can Do About It. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

Gershenson, Seth, Cassandra Hart, Joshua Hyman, Constance Lindsay, and Nicholas W. Papageorge. 2018. The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers (No. w25254). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Hanushek, Eric A., John F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin. 2004. "Why public schools lose teachers." Journal of Human Resources 39(2):326-54.