Back in 2008, after the election of Barrack Obama I began to read the words, “post racial America” (“There is No Post Racial America“), maybe not so fast.
I believe the subtext of conversations are race, gender and class, and, maybe add sexual orientation. From Colin Kaepernick, “white privilege” the twitter war between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornell West, to the biting humor of Dave Chapelle (“Is Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Style Racist?,”) discussions about race, uncomfortable to some, is essential.
In 2014 the UCLA Diversity Project released a report accusing New York of creating the most segregated schools in the nation. Slowly, inexorably, New York City moved to create a school integration plan and finally released the plan in June, 2017.
In some districts students of different races live in the same general neighborhoods, in others schools are hyper-segregated, the term to describe neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly neighborhoods of color.
I blogged about the issue last week and mused whether the emphasis on integration/segregation is distracting from working to improve the majority of schools in hyper-segregated neighborhoods
The de Blasio/Farina team continues to look for the “secret sauce,” the highly touted Renewal Schools program is struggling, integration is a politically heavy lift and another initiative is increasing the diversity among the staff.
The Men Teacher initiative, a mayoral program is in its third year,
While male students of color make up 43% of NYC’s public school demographic, only 8.3% of the entire teacher workforce is made up of Black, Latino and Asian men.
By 2020, the majority of U.S. children will be youth of color. Yet their classrooms—which are the bridges to opportunity, access, and success— will not reflect this diversity. Research shows that students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences who help create a positive learning environment and leave a profound impact on students’ grades and self-worth.
The Men Teach cohort will be closely tracked, do they remain in teaching? Are they more, less or equally effective as all other teachers? A rich source of future research.
Does research actually show that “students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences,” and what the hell does that that mean? Let’s be more direct: Does the Race/Ethnicity of a teacher impact student learning?
The State Education Department (SED) sponsored report from the Wallace Foundation on Principal Preparation and a recent research paper from David Kirkland at the NYU Metro Center both call for increasing numbers of teachers of color in the schools.
The Wallace Foundation report calls for a quota system,
…[State Education should] put in motion an expectation that local school districts begin to set goals to recruit, select, develop, and place individuals from historically under-represented populations within the ranks of school building leaders, so that the racial and ethnic mix of the principal corps in the district matches the mix of the student population within the district at large.
Will the State Department of Education actually endorse a racial/ethnic quota system for principals? A “Rooney_Rule ” for school districts?
The NYU Metro Center report, “Separate But Unequal” recommends,
The researchers … recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.
Education Trust has released a sortable tracker of teachers of color by district ; teachers of color predominantly work in districts that are hyper-segregated.
Schools with large percentages of teachers of color identified in the tracker do not appear to be any more successful than all other schools with similar students.
Does research support that teachers of color positively impact the achievement of students of color?
Dan Goldhaber and others, well-regarded researchers have taken a deep dive into the research around impact of teachers of color.
The Center for Education Data and Research, “The Theoretical and Empirical Arguments for Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: A Review of the Evidence,” (Goldhaber and others, 2015) reports,
Concerns about the (lack of) diversity of the U.S. teacher workforce—and, in particular, the mismatch between the demographics of the teacher workforce and the nation’s students—are not new. Indeed, the recruitment of minorities into teaching has long been a policy goal, particularly in districts with large percentages of minority students…. As then Secretary of Education Richard Riley put it nearly two decades ago, “Our teachers should look like America … Despite this rhetoric, we have made relatively little progress toward ensuring that the diversity of the teaching workforce reflects the diversity of the student body in U.S. public schools.
These theoretical arguments suggest several ways that increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce might improve outcomes for racial/ethnic minority students. However, as we describe in the next section, empirical researchers have put these theories to the test and generally found that, all else being equal (and, importantly, all else is often not equal), minority students do appear to benefit when they are taught by a teacher of the same race/ethnicity.
… there are good theoretical reasons to believe that minority students would benefit from a more diverse teaching workforce, and these theoretical arguments are largely backed by empirical evidence suggesting that there are small but meaningful “role model effects” when minority students are taught by teachers of the same race. Thus, our perspective is that policy makers should consider policies to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce as one of many strategies to attempt to close racial and ethnic achievement gaps in public schools.
The answer to original question: does race/ethnicity of teachers positive impact student achievement, the answer is yes, with the caveat, “all else being equal” and additionally “there are small but meaningful ‘role model effects’”
Goldhaber’s caveat: “all things being equal.”
I worked in a large high school, over 3,000 kids with only a few Afro-American teachers. The principal called one of the black teachers, a friend of mine, into his office, praised him to the sky, an extraordinary teacher, etc., and offered him the job of one of the deans of students.
The teacher thanked him and turned down the job, the principal pushed, “Why don’t you want the job, you understand these kids?” The teacher asked, “Which kids?” The principal: “Your people.” The teacher: “I’d rather be the faculty adviser to the Honor Society.” The principal, clearly shocked.” You’re not qualified.” The teacher: “I’m not qualified because I’m black? I’m only qualified to be the slave master keeping the bucks in line?” They never spoke again; the principal left a couple of years later.
A close friend of mine, one of a few black teachers became the music teacher in an elementary school. The principal asked, “Are you going to teach ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ and spirituals?”
My friend: “First, “America the Beautiful,” “The National Anthem,” and “This Land is Our Land,” and I’m going to teach our students to read music.” The principal: “Why would you teach them to read music?” The teacher: “Aren’t your kids in their Scarsdale school learning to read music? Why should our kids be any different?”
Are the principals referenced above racists or just insensitive?
What we learned?
- A black teacher in a school with a predominantly white staff can have a difficult time.
- Schools with large numbers of teachers of color do not have better results than schools in general according to the tracker referenced above.
- Studies show teachers of color “modestly” improve outcomes for children of color.
- Studies also show the most diverse schools also “modestly” outperform students in the least diverse schools.
School integration and staff diversity should be pursued; however. these efforts will only “modestly” impact student achievement.
While student integration and teacher diversity dominate the headline there is a relatively inexpensive fix that will have significant impact, David Steiner writes,
Shifting from a poor to an excellent curriculum can increase student learning by the annual equivalent of several months of additional learning, or, to put the same point differently, can move a student who is performing at the 50th percentile to the 70th. This level of impact is greater than replacing every first-year teacher in America with a veteran teacher.
Hopefully the new chancellor will move the school system from responding to external criticism to developing a system-wide research-based approach.