Giving Compass’ Take:
• Andre Perry explains how Black teachers’ presence in communities increases representation that reduces racism.
• How can communities work to recruit, train, and retain Black teachers?
• Learn about the root cause of the teacher diversity problem.
When it comes to teachers’ roles in shaping anti-racist communities, it’s better to show than to tell. Meaning, society is better off when students see diversity in the ranks of teachers rather than when they hear lessons about the importance of inclusion from a monolithic group of educators. Representation matters. The number of black teachers across the country has been declining over the past twenty years, with individual schools becoming less inclusive. Research shows that black students who have black teachers have better academic outcomes, are suspended less often, and face higher expectations from their teachers.
According to a 2017 report on teacher diversity by the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank focused on democracy and education, minority teachers are more motivated to work with minority students in extremely segregated schools. This may reduce teacher turnover in “hard-to-staff” schools. These teachers have higher academic expectations for minority students, which translate into higher achievement and social growth for this population; they also serve as positive role models.
But there’s more at stake than the educational benefits of having black teachers for black students. Ultimately, all students benefit from teachers of color, as exposure to individuals from all walks of life can reduce stereotypes, prevent unconscious bias, and prepare students to succeed in a diverse society.
Black-majority cities that are losing black residents should lead the way in retaining and recruiting black teachers. Eliminating barriers to the teaching profession and offering an incentive for black teachers to stay makes complete economic sense. This begins with expanding access to teaching jobs and continues by giving hardworking teachers a raise. Increasing the number of teachers while simultaneously upping the number of middle-class jobs helps make local economies more inclusive. When black people lose quality jobs, it makes it more difficult for them to own a home and afford a decent life, and increases inequality in the economy.
When black, brown and Asian students see that teachers can look like them, and when white teachers see their black students as potential teachers, they can also visualize black people being their neighbors. That’s a powerful defense against gentrification and displacement. Currently, negative perceptions of black people power many NIMBY (not in my backyard) efforts to thwart affordable housing developments, which black communities desperately need to survive in many cities. An integrated teaching corps disrupts structural white supremacy because the value of living and working together is demonstrated by the act of doing so, and does more to combat racism than any preaching about inclusion or racial harmony.
Read the full article about black teachers by Andre Perry at The Hechinger Report.
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