SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — On Tuesday, the Illinois State Board of Education announced the creation of 43 affinity groups in an effort to retain teachers of color.

ISBE collaborated with the Sangamon-Menard Regional Office of Education (ROE) 51, Teach Plus Illinois, and the Golden Apple Foundation to create the affinity groups.

Teachers will be trained to facilitate groups to bring educators of color to build a supportive community and explore current issues within the teaching profession. The groups will have monthly meetings in a variety of settings both in the school districts and their communities.

“The surest way to combat the teacher shortage is to keep the excellent teachers we have,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “As an educator of color, myself, I understand how isolating it can be for our teachers of color, who are often the only leaders of color in their schools. Affinity groups provide a healing space to network, foster a sense of community, and work together to solve common problems. Illinois is a diverse state with a diverse student population. Teachers of color are powerful role models for all students, and if we retain more of our teachers of color-everyone benefits.”

The ISBE stated they started reporting the three-year teacher retention rate disaggregate by race or ethnicity in 2021. The data they said shows Illinois retains Black teachers at the lowest rate of all teacher groups with Black teachers at 80.6 % versus the 87.6 % rate for White teachers.

“It feels incredible to help connect Golden Apple teachers and professionals across our community. I aim to create a support system and an open, safe space for our teacher and professional leaders to relate, release, and recharge in efforts to continue the challenging yet necessary work we all do daily,” said Kayla Goodloe, a job coach at Pavilion School in Urbana School District 116.

ISBE hopes that these affinity groups will help to retain teachers and meet the high demand in Illinois for educators.

If you are a teacher of color in Illinois, you can sign up by filling out a form at isbe.net.  

Interested in learning more? You can see a complete list of the affinity groups, districts, and geographic areas on the Teach Plus Illinois Affinity Group Network webpage.