Why Are We Losing Black Teachers?

Diversity in the teacher corps is becoming harder to sustain

Image: File

In a recent article in The Washington Post, it was reported that the number of black public school teachers has declined in nine cities across the nation—including in the country’s three largest school districts.

[Related: 7 Reasons Why Kids Drop Out of School]

In a post that BlackEnterprise.com published, Marilyn Rhames, a teacher in the Windy City and a BE Smart guest contributor, examined the phenomenon in Chicago. She wrote of a white principal who desperately wanted to hire a black teacher and attended a teacher fair with that express purpose. But whom did she end up hiring? A white man.

Rhames quotes the principal as saying, “Because so many black students in Chicago are getting a crappy K-12 education,” she explained, “It’s affecting the quality of the teaching pool once some of them become teachers.”

Rhames writes that now that passing scores on the Illinois State Board of Education exam are so much higher than they were formerly, 85% instead of 50%, fewer black teachers are passing.

“Let me be clear,” Rhames writes. “All teachers—regardless of race—must have the intellectual wherewithal to become educators. We want our best and brightest in teaching programs.” Yet she also bemoans the consistent failure of a friend she describes as a skilled teacher who hasn’t passed the state boards.

Is that why we’re losing black teachers across the country? Is it their “crappy K-12 education” catching up with them? Or are there other reasons?

Tough Assignment

The Washington Post reports that black teachers tend to be assigned to struggling, high-poverty schools. Because of the tougher work conditions, they leave the teaching field faster than teachers of other races. The schools they work in are also often slated for turnaround, which tends to usher in a more tightly controlled, rule-based ethos that restricts their autonomy. According to a researcher quoted in the article, these stifling environments also lead black teachers to leave the field.

Here’s the excerpt below.

The number of black public school teachers in nine cities — including the country’s three largest school districts — dropped between 2002 and 2012, raising questions about whether those school systems are doing enough to maintain a diverse teaching corps, according to a new report to be released Wednesday.

The study by the Albert Shanker Institute, a think-tank funded by the American Federation of Teachers, looked at teacher data from nine cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The research found that each city saw a drop in the number of black teachers in traditional and charter schools.

The issue of teacher diversity is important because research has suggested that students who are racially paired with teachers — black teachers working with black students and Hispanic teachers working with Hispanic students — do better academically. Teachers of color also can serve as powerful role models for minority students, who are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than white students, and less likely to know other adults who are college graduates.

“Diversity is a key component to equality and opportunity,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers federation, who is asking the Obama administration to call a White House summit on teacher diversity. “Where there’s a diverse teaching workforce, all kids thrive. That’s why we note with alarm the sharp decline in the population of black teachers in our cities.”

Researchers examined the decade between 2002 and 2012 because it was a period of rapid expansion of public charter schools and closures of traditional district schools. There also were other state and federal policy changes, such as the use of teacher evaluation systems, that caused some churn and upheaval in teaching ranks.

The largest drop took place in the District of Columbia, where between 2003 and 2011, the portion of the D.C. teaching force that was white, more than doubled from 16% to 39% while the share of teachers who were black shrank from 77% to 49%.

Read more at The Washington Post.


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  • Dee Rankin

    There must be immediate Leadership commissioning (PRESIDENT OBAMA) of this ‘CHILDRENLIVESMATTER’ and ‘TEACHERSLIVESMATTER’! If there is no solution to this holocoist of a problem, our Youth will disappear into deeper poverty creating more and more crime, of all capacity. This mean the prison system and graveyards will be fuller.We must work with the President and Congress to pass laws petitioning them bombarding them with any and all Legal Means Possible to stop State and Federal Policies causing churn and upheaval in teaching ranks. It would benefit Black American Children and all other Children to have diversity in their schools. Times are changing and we are coming to a time where when you need help….whomever can and is willing to help you that is the hel p you will accept. The law no child left behind and the undisclose amount of money allocated when it was implemented should yet be available today. In every city and state there should equal distribution of teachers to ensure diversity in every school. You don’t become a REAL TEACHER and don’t want to teach a Child because of their colors or ethnic group! There should be weeding out via system that will not tolerate someone who does not want to teach in their city to the capacity of help any and all children. The lives of Children are most important Pre-K-12 Grades and every minute, hour, day, week, month, year and life time that will ensure taking care of themselves and their families. We must make sure we ‘FAST AND PRAY’, JESUS SAID: SOME OF THESE THINGS COME BUT BY FASTING AND PRAYING! THE BIBLE ALSO SAYS: IF WE HAVE FAITH THE SIZE OF A MUSTARD SEED AND FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD……….this too shall pass…….trouble don’t last always…..but if you have more fruits and vegetables in the field to pick and not enough workers to pick them……what happens? it take all hands on the deck even retired people to remember that somebody prayed for you, stood up for you, taught you, carried you with the help of the Lord, sacrifice for you, made sure you had what you needed to get a good education, stood in the gap for you, etc. I am experiencing a vast majority of retired people/ disable, but yet getting around that can lend a helping hand in some capacity to turn this horrible situation around. Horrible is a strong word and i meant to use it to SHAKE UP SHAKE UP THE NATION LETTING THEM KNOW……YOU WILL PAY FOR NOT GETTING UP AND HELPING ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR CHILDREN. ”IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD”, IN THESE LAST AND EVIL DAYS, IT TAKES A NATION! WHO WANT TO SEE ALL CHILDREN, NO MATTER WHAT COLOR, ETHNIC GROUP, GET A CHANCE IN LIFE? Even if you are unable to leave your home, but talk on the telephone, computer, etc, you could dedicate some of that precious time to a child, if not in person , but on the phone, computer encourage them, testify to what your parents, teachers, peers did for you to get your education. We live in diverse neighborhoods and many live in same racial neighborhoods for years and don’t even know their neighbors names. There are Churches sitting in the smack of neighborhoods and they haven’t extended Fellowship with the people living there. You can see that a single mother is trying to raise her children in the right way and you have more than enough to share with her and those babies, but all you can do is talk about her and the children. People just buy buy because they can and not because there is truly a need. I have been guilty of part of this but have always tried to look out for children and seniors, actually anyone that’s in need. WE must start by finding a way to get nutritional foods in our bodies and this goes for every human being. Parents must be an example for their children or whomever is raising that child. Children are not born with Racism, it is taught and implemented through by behavior and separation of people. God is not please with the way things are going on in this world and trust me because i believe his word (BIBLE), I’VE experienced trials and tribulations because of my sinfulness. I have know repented, born again and given my whole entire life to Jesus. Although, before i did that i had a great up bringing and teaching and training so i was already helping people before i SURRENDERED TOTALLY TO GOD. TO MY WHITE, BLACK, LATINO, ASIAN AND ALL OTHER RACE AND NATIONALITY………NOW IS THE TIME FOR BROTHERLY TO COME TOGETHER IN UNITY FOR NOT ONLY OUR CHILDREN,BUT FOR MANKIND TO SURVIVE. WE ARE ON A ROAD OF DESTRUCTION GOING AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. LET’S START TODAY ON WHAT YOU’RE ALREADY DOING TO ENSURE THE SAFETY, TEACHING AND TRAINING OF ALL CHILDREN. THE LORD SAID FOR US TO ‘LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF’. ONE SUGGESTION IS GET A PERMIT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE CITIES AND START HAVING BLOCK PARTIES PEACEFULLY. INCORPORATE…..MILD TO MODERATE MUSIC, GIVE AWAY PRIZES, GAMES FOR ADULTS AND CHILDREN, BOUNCE EQUIPMENT, REFRESHMENTS AND EVERYONE CAN CHIP IN, FACE PAINTING, RACES, PRAISE AND WORSHIP SINGING, EXCHANGING OF NUMBERS VIA PERSONAL OR BUSINESS, BRING IDEAS TO FORUM EACH PARTY, SHAKE HANDS INTRODUCE YOURSELVES, HUG ONE ANOTHER AND TELL THEM THAT YOU LOVE THEM. THERE’S MUCH MORE I JUST WANTED TO GIVE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT COULD BE DONE. WE ARE PROMOTING A SPIRITUAL, LOVING CARING AND SHARING, EDUCATED, CITY EMPLOYEE LEADER OVER MILLIONS OF FUNDS, HUSBAND, FATHER, COMMUNITY LEADER, KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS TO NOT HAVE AND TO HAVE, KIND HEARTED, FULL OF WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF PEOPLE, LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND HAS AND STILL IS PROVING HIS ABILITY TO CARRY THIS COUNTRY TO THE NEXT STAGE IS NEEDED FOR ALL MANKIND IN GOODS AND SERVICE. PLEASE VISIT MR. JOHN W. EWING, JR. FACEBOOK PAGE. AGREE…..PLEASE TYPE AGREE, YES! AMEN. I LOVE THIS NATION WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST AND PRAY WE CAN JUST ALL GET ALONG. BE BLESS. Respectfully true to this, not new to this. Dee Rankin.

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