As high school teachers, we’ve often seen black teenagers – mostly boys – who were distracted by their lessons, considered incapable of high academic achievement, leaned towards remedial classes or special education, and encouraged them to be happy after graduation.
We didn’t have magical powers, but we could clearly see the potential of these young people being ruined and wondering why others couldn’t.
Sadly, our experience has been and continues to be replicated throughout the country, as black youth are overwhelmed by academic bias: recognizing teachers’ disabilities and overcoming the underlying (and sometimes obvious) prejudices they have about black students. This bias plays a key role in keeping black students away from gifted programs and advanced classes that give them the opportunity to earn free college credit and increase their chances of going to college. In fact, black students make up 15 percent of high school students nationwide, compared to only 9 percent of students enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement (AP) course.
It is important to address academic bias. We can and should pressure all educators to look after our children fairly. But more importantly, we must find teachers who can accurately assess our children’s intelligence and potential through both background and training.
That means more black teachers in the classroom.
We must find teachers who, through both background and training, can already accurately assess our children’s intelligence and potential. That means more black teachers in the classroom.
Today, many schools are using the same decade-old educational playbooks designed by and for white Americans. But experts predict that by 2050, the majority of the U.S. population will be black – emphasizing the need to transform our education system to serve all students more equitably.
Black teachers, who have long played a role in educating children outside the traditional system, will be essential to this transformation.
Jarvis R., a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. According to Givens, decades before the current movement for anti-apartheid schools, black teachers worked from a fundamentally anti-apartheid perspective. These leaders laid the foundations for public education in the South during the Reconstruction, and skillfully navigated the limitations of white supremacy in the Jim Crow era – a practice given to what is called “fugitive pedagogy.”
Following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education landmark ruling that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional, however, thousands of highly qualified black teachers lost their jobs because black students joined better-off, predominantly white schools that did not welcome black teachers. The consequences of this unintentional exodus remain today, as black teachers make up only 7 percent of the country’s teachers and black men only 2 percent.
Bet on black superiority
Our predominantly white education system fails many black students, depriving them of the chance of a lifetime of success, even as their lives have just begun. If we are committed to transformation, prioritizing teacher diversity should be the main goal of every district. Not only is this associated with improved academic achievement, behavior, and college aspirations among black students, but white students also report positive academic and socio-psychological experiences when they come in contact with color teachers.
Hiring black teachers is an important first step, but decision makers should also adopt the following practices so that these teachers feel empowered and supported to stay.
1. Embrace and believe in black education. As leaders seek to transform their 2020 equity statement into action, they must assess whether their school culture welcomes black ideas and supports support networks. Prioritizing diverse representations, spaces, and professional development is essential to creating a vibrant culture where black educators can collaborate and support colleagues of the same identity. In addition, schools should support black educators to integrate their classrooms into their own life experiences – as their predecessors did so efficiently – and not limit their methods to “tested” pedagogy.
2. Center black joy and intelligence. The predominantly white education system often classifies black students based on their perceived limitations rather than their strengths. Drawing on the heritage of the nation by black educators – whose education has enhanced black identity, intellect and joy – can help counteract this underlying prejudice and change the narrative on the potential of black students. Schools should embrace the curriculum that presents a resource-based lens on black history, so that students understand the rich contribution of black Americans to our country’s story and, as a result, see opportunities for their own future.
3. Invest black teachers. Decades of inequality and inequality continue to widen ethnic wealth gaps, as black families, despite representing 13.4 percent of the population, hold only 4 percent of the country’s total household wealth. If we are to encourage black graduates to teach, we must also acknowledge the contradictions that present with their long-term resource potential. Provide teachers with a respectable salary that allows them to create their own financial capital, ensuring that these salaries are evenly distributed.
Although these tips are rarely complete, they provide a baseline for action. Success indicators will vary, but analyzing teacher teacher data trends is one way we can monitor progress towards the goal of increasing teacher diversity. In addition to traditional measures such as test scores and student growth, teacher diversity data provides an important indication of school quality but is often difficult to find.
As districts commit to recruiting and supporting more black teachers, states must make teacher population data easily accessible to all. Parents and caregivers should feel empowered to use this information to support a more colorful teacher in their community and, once successful, these skilled teachers will challenge their children to think critically and take new perspectives.
Orville Jackson is a first-generation college graduate and vice president of data strategy GreatSchools.orgA national nonprofit that helps parents access a quality education for their child.
Robert J. Hendrix III Its founder and CEO He is my institute, A nonprofit that gives black men the ability to discover education. As a black male educator himself, Robert has spent more than 13 years teaching classroom and administration.
More black teachers are produced by this piece about the need Hatchinger report, A non-profit, independent news organization focusing on inequality and innovation in education. For registration Hatchinger’s newsletter.