Recently, the media reported that Florida and Virginia are attempting to close the “achievement gap” by setting different performance standards for black and white students. These controversial and misguided proposals demonstrate a dreadfully shortsighted assessment of race and achievement in the United States. Instead of dealing with the complicated racial nuances that shape black students’ classroom experiences, Florida and Virginia are flirting with the idea of “lowering the bar” for black students, and by association, their teachers.
The recently ended Chicago teachers’ strike highlighted the challenges of defining teacher effectiveness in the U.S. Although teaching in Chicago involves significant cross-cultural interactions between teachers and students, racial issues in the classroom were rarely discussed in the media or among school leaders. In Chicago, the preschool through 12th-grade student population is only 15 percent white (9 percent in public schools), yet the Chicago teaching force is 53 percent white. Blacks and Hispanics comprise more than 80 percent of Chicago schoolchildren, yet they make up only 40 percent of the teaching force.
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