Success Academy Charter School Staff Diversity: Why is the Staff Overwhelming White? Tone Deaf? By Choice? A Diverse Workforce is Essential in the 21st Century.

The NY Daily News reports,

More than 1,000 city charter school teachers will rally for change Wednesday in Manhattan’s Foley Square, officials from a pro-charter school group said Friday.

Families for Excellent Schools’ CEO Jeremiah Kittredge said, “Great teachers change children’s lives every day, … Teachers will stand united to demand an end to this education inequality.”

Families for Excellent Schools is the very deep pocketed advocacy organization that pays for the TV ads, trashes Mayor de Blasio and the teachers union, and, refuses to disclose the source of their millions.

Most of the charter school teachers will come from 34-school Success Academy Charter network led by Eva Moskowitz.

As you look out over the crowd you’ll notice one striking factor – the teachers are overwhelming white. Charter schools proudly proclaim that their hands aren’t tied by union rules or other regulations, in fact, state law give them wide discretion in hiring, they can hire non-certified teachers. It is strange that they choose to hire a less diverse teaching force.

A recent report tallies the diversity among teachers in the Success Academy schools,

The information below was obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools that responded to our request. The percentage of white teachers at each Success Academy School is listed below for the 2013-2014 school year:
SA Cobble Hill 82%
SA Crown Heights 57%
SA Fort Green 100%
SA Harlem I 73%
SA Harlem II 63%
SA Harlem III 61%
SA Harlem IV 56%
SA Harlem V 76%
SA Hell’s Kitchen 89%
SA Prospect Heights 91%
SA Upper West 82%
SA Williamsburg 71%
SA Bed-Stuy II 80%
SA Bronx I 74%
SA Bronx II 66%

In 2012 58.6% of teachers in the NYC public schools were white. Out of the 15 Success Academy Charter schools listed above, 13 out of 15 have a higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC.

The Success Academy did not respond to requests for comment from the Teachers Diversity Committee of NYC, the source of the report above.

Why is the Success Academy network not seeking a more diverse teacher workforce?

Perhaps they will argue they cannot find enough “qualified” teachers of color, an argument that would be pilloried in the public arena.

Perhaps they will argue, they follow the law and are color blind in hiring, they hire the “best and the brightest” regardless of color or ethnicity.

Perhaps they aren’t getting many applicants from prospective teachers of color.

The pedagogy in the Success Academy schools is rote, highly disciplined and punishment, suspensions, are commonplace, perhaps the pedagogical/discipline practices chase away teachers of color.

John Merrow on PBS reports on the high levels of suspensions in kindergarten in the Success Academy schools, that’s right, suspending five year olds, watch the brief U-Tube,

The data on the impact of suspensions is indisputable; students who are frequently suspended are far more likely to drop out of school and far more likely to end up in the prison system – the school to prison pipeline. Perhaps teachers of color choose not to participate in a system that might raise test scores for some while driving out others and beginning their path down the pipeline to prison.

Lingering but unsaid: does race matter? Does the race of the teacher impact student achievement? Should schools, at the K-12 or the college level seek teachers who can serve as mentors, as role models for students of color?

The literature supporting mentoring/role model relationships is vast, at the K – 12 and at college level.

A few weeks ago I was at a tailgate before a football game, as a car passed the window rolled down and someone yelled out the name of the teacher who was standing next to me. A few minutes later, the former student wrapped his former teacher in a bear hug and exclaimed to everyone how the teacher had changed his life. A decade earlier he had been a black student in an overwhelmingly white school with an almost all white staff – the black teacher had “saved” the black student. Yes, an anecdote, a white teacher may have played the same role; however, in my experience role models are extremely important for kids, and diverse teaching forces provide opportunities for role models and developing mentor-mentee relationships.

Race alone does not make for a more effective teaching force; however, a diverse teaching force is vital for the staff as well as for the student body.

Charter schools have a unique “advantage” over public schools as far as test scores are concerned – they can force out the low performers, either through expelling a student for disciplinary reasons or making the student so uncomfortable that the parent withdraws the student. Charter schools also do not enroll the same percentages of students with disabilities or English language learners, and the students with disabilities that they do enroll have lesser handicaps that allow them to score higher on the state tests. If we compare “apples to apples,” general ed students to general ed public schools do as well or better than charter schools in the same district. An interesting study would be the impact of the force out charter school kids on the receiving public schools.

Success Academy and many other charter schools use a “no excuses” system – rigid rules, pre-scripted lessons, 100% focus on preparing for the state tests. The data is not encouraging. What percentage of entering kindergarten kids graduate to middle school in the fifth grade? The erosion of students is far higher than in public schools. Do charter schools fill the empty seats, seats vacated by students who are forced out? The answer is a resounding “no.”

What the Success Academy has been is very successful at attracting philanthropy. The larger charter school networks attract significant dollars to lower class size, train teachers, and provide high quality classrooms well-stocked with supplies. What is the per capita difference? We don’t know – the amount and use of the philanthropic dollars is not public information.

Whether the Success Academy network is simply tone deaf or is actively not seeking teachers of color, the result is the same. Diversity of staffs, for all-minority or all-white or integrated schools is essential.

To be perfectly honest I view with suspicion the hiring practices of the Success network – after all some of those black teachers may be secret Black Panthers, or, may be troublemakers, they may ask hard questions, let’s just only hire “safe” teachers, teachers who will keep their mouths shut and do what they’re told.

Ultimately I fear the Success practices will exacerbate not assuage student achievement gaps, graduation rates and college retention.

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5 responses to “Success Academy Charter School Staff Diversity: Why is the Staff Overwhelming White? Tone Deaf? By Choice? A Diverse Workforce is Essential in the 21st Century.

  1. Pingback: Eva Moskowitz's "Suspension Academy" Charter Schools - AltoSky - AltoSky

  2. Pingback: Why Are Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy Charter Schools Suspending Students Left and Right? | naked capitalism

  3. Pingback: Horace Meister: The Myth of Charter School “Success”: Hillary Was Right | Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. Pingback: Trying to Keep the Business Profitable | Public vs Charter & Private School

  5. Pingback: New York’s Success Academy Charter Schools: A Tentative Success | Education Studies

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