A ‘Rooney Rule’ for Teachers?

A ‘Rooney Rule’ for Teachers?

CC and DianeCynthia DuBois (l) and Diane Schanzenbach

School districts should explore 'soft' affirmative action policies and other hiring reforms to help diversify the teaching profession, Northwestern University researchers argue in a new working paper.

Studies have shown that students -- especially minority ones -- benefit from having access to racially diverse teachers. Efforts to increase the supply of minority teachers have largely focused on fixing the pipeline.

But a large share of minorities with teaching degrees are not currently working as teachers, according to School of Education and Social Policy researchers Cynthia (CC) DuBois and Diane Schanzenbach.

“This is an untapped supply of qualified minority teachers who made it through the pipeline and did not find a teaching position,” they wrote on Brookings.com.

DuBois, who recently received her doctorate in human development and social policy, and Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR), argue that businesses have been trying to diversify their workforce by reducing biases in their hiring processes.

“Should more school districts be doing the same?” they ask. “Could something be going wrong at the hiring stage that systematically disadvantages minority teacher candidates?"

The researchers examined a 1969 court-ordered hiring mandate in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish, which was finally enforced in 2010. They found the Tangipahoa Parish offered a more efficient approach to diversifying the workforce.

In addition to a court order, districts can adopt “soft” affirmative action policies to change the composition of the candidate pool rather than changing the criteria used in the hiring process, they wrote.

The ‘Rooney Rule, for example, requires National Football League teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching vacancy. “After the NFL adopted this policy, minority candidates were 20 percent more likely to fill a head coaching vacancy than before,”  wrote DuBois and Schanzenbach.

“Demand-side policies—including hiring reforms voluntarily adopted by schools and districts, as well as when necessary court-ordered reforms—can substantially increase the share of minority teachers in the classroom,” they wrote. “More schools and districts should examine their recruiting and hiring processes to promote diversity.”

DuBois is the author of "The Impact of 'Soft' Affirmative Action Policies on Minority Hiring in Executive Leadership: The Case of the NFL's Rooney Rule" published in the American Law and Economics Review. Her research involves conducting policy-relevant research in the field of labor economics that is significant and innovative, informed by multiple disciplines, and addresses timely and socially relevant issues.

Schanzenbach, the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and a faculty fellow at IPR, studies policies aimed at improving the lives of children in poverty, including education, health, and income support policies. From 2015–17, Schanzenbach served as director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Read the working paper: The Effect of Court-Ordered Hiring Guidelines on Teacher Composition and Student Achievement.


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 12/14/17