Giving Compass' Take:

• Kelly Field explains how one school is working to bridge the divide between white teachers and students of color through an equity initiative. 

• How can funders work to scale up efforts like this one? How can this program be improved? 

• Learn why teacher representation matters to students of color


On a recent Thursday morning, when most of their peers were busy prepping for the day, a dozen teachers and staff at Delaware’s Sussex Tech High School sat down to talk about race.

The group was discussing Chapter 2 of scholar Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism.”

Lynne Banning, an administrative assistant to the principal, said she was surprised to read that racial biases begin in preschool. At the elementary school she worked at before Sussex Tech, kids of all races played together, she said. “I don’t see racism at that age,” said Banning, who is white.

More than a third of the students at Sussex Tech are students of color, but close to 90 percent of its teachers are white, a mismatch evident in many high schools today.

“It absolutely happens,” said Spanish teacher Valarie Dacius, who is biracial. “I think it’s because you’re white.” Dacius then told her own story about growing up in predominantly white Bel Air, Maryland, one of three kids of color. “We were made very aware we were different,” she said. “We were excluded.”

Each of the women was speaking her truth, and that was the point. By sharing their experiences and perspectives, even when it’s awkward, the members of the school’s “equity team” hope to better understand one another — and their students. More than a third of the students at Sussex Tech are students of color, but close to 90 percent of its teachers are white, a mismatch evident in many high schools today.

In the long run, the group hopes to persuade the administration to hire more faculty and staff of color, said Dontez Collins, a math teacher and the group’s co-leader. But for now, it’s focused on training existing educators to become more “culturally responsive,” representing diverse cultures and frames of reference in their teaching.

Read the full article about efforts to bridge the divide between white teachers and students of color by Kelly Field at The Hechinger Report.