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Will Black public school students suffer academically because of a dwindling number of Black teachers? It’s a critical question that is being debated in education circles across America. And it’s got my attention. As more African-Americans students and other pupils of color are packing the nation’s classrooms, public schools are becoming more segregated and minority teachers, who serve as positive role models for Black students, are increasingly quitting their teaching jobs and pursuing other professions

A new study released Wednesday by The Albert Shanker Institute, and sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, (AFT) underscores this troubling fact: More than 60 years after the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was handed down, its promise remains un­fulfilled. In many respects, America’s public schools continue to be “separate and unequal.”

The study shows “the grow­ing re-segregation of American schools by race and ethnicity, compounded by economic class segregation, has become the dominant trend in American education.” It’s a provocative issue that has concerned Black and Hispanic parents for years, with many parents saying their students need positive role models from teachers of color – teachers who look like their students and reflect the racial composition of America.

There is some legitimacy to this notion, but sadly, many teachers of color are leaving the classrooms for higher paying jobs and many Black and Brown students are being taught for years without any interaction whatsoever from Black or Latino teachers. “There is growing evidence that all students—and our democracy at large—would benefit from a teaching force that reflects the full diversity of the U.S. population,” according to the study.

This is not to say that white teachers can’t offer minority students the quality education they need and deserve. But the balance among Black and white teachers is shifting and many studies show that students of color respond better academically to teachers of color—teachers who understand the students’ cultural background.

Specifically, here’s what the AFT research found:

  • – Minority teachers can be more motivated to work with disadvantaged minority students in high-pov­erty, racially and ethnically segregated schools, a factor which may help to reduce rates of teacher attrition in hard-to-staff schools.
  • – Minority teachers tend to have higher academic expectations for minority students, which can result in increased academic and social growth among students.
  • – Minority students profit from having among their teachers individuals from their own racial and eth­nic group who can serve as academically successful role models and who can have greater knowledge of their heritage culture.
  • – Positive exposure to individuals from a variety of races and ethnic groups, especially in childhood, can help to reduce stereotypes, attenuate unconscious implicit biases and help promote cross-cultural social bonding.
  • The nine cities studied in this report—Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—followed the national patterns of teacher di­versity.

“As a general rule, minority teachers—especially minority male teach­ers—are underrepresented in these urban workforces, with substantial representation gaps between minority teachers and minority students,” the study said. “In every one of the nine cities studied, the Black share of the teacher workforce declined.”

“It has been argued that teachers of color can help fill this gap for minority students by bolstering their confidence and motivation, and alleviating their sense of marginalization,’ the study said.

The AFT study also comes as a recent report shows that America’s teachers and administrators frequently address behavioral problems with students strictly along racial lines.

The study, which was recently released by the journal Sociology of Education, shows that African-American students with behavioral problems are far more likely to be punished with expulsions, suspensions — and sometimes even arrested and forced into the criminal justice system — while white students are routinely steered into special education programs and treated for learning disabilities when they behave badly.

Black educators and parents say the study confirms their beliefs. For years, civil rights activists have argued that a racially biased culture in the nation’s school system has worked against black students but some of their complaints have been routinely dismissed.

But the new study by the AFT is a welcomed document that seems to prove that Black students could fare much better academically and socially with compassionate teachers of color who understand – and who have lived – the Black experience.

What do you think?

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18 thoughts on “Do Black Students Really Need Black Teachers?

  1. specialt757 on said:

    I’m not sure if having black teachers teach black children is the answer. But a teacher of any ethnicity should have the right credentials along with the right attitude and a lot of passion to help motivate kids to achieve higher and strive for excellence. That’s number 1. Number 2 is the parents, which appears to be the biggest obstacle in their own kids’ lives. They accept their bad behavior and pass it off on others to handle. If parents would be parents and not friends and work with the educational institutions POSITIVELY, things would change.
    I had both black and white teachers in high school and college and can remember some names and others not. But what I remember most was what I taught. I can’t remember my U.S. History professor’s name from college but I sure do remember he was a historian, he talked a whole lot, but I learned a whole lot and find myself having conversations about him from time to time. It’s the impact they leave that’s most important.

  2. Timothy Green*

    I had several excellent teachers when I was in high-school and to this day still remember their names because they made such an impression/impact on me.

    Mr. Newman and Mrs. Languilli were both English teachers who I admired and respected. English was always my best subject in school and these educators allowed me and our class to be ourselves and to express ourselves freely.

    Which is why I speak well and rarely use slang and don’t even know what Ebonics is.

    Having caring, decent, dedicated teachers can make all the difference to children in school.

  3. My daughter’s Japanese teacher is Japanese, her algebra teacher is white, her history teacher is white and her band teacher is black, and she respects all of them. This article is ridiculous.

  4. Timekeeeper on said:

    I welcome teachers of all creeds, colors and walks of life. We need Good teachers regardless of their ethnicity. I am against however turning this question into a tirade of negative clichés and stereotypical comments.

    • Timothy Green on said:

      Timekeeper if they were just clichés & sterotypes they wouldn’t be a serious concern but the sad fact is they’re realities, my job requires me to go to the local minority schools frequently, the kids aren’t sent there to learn they’re sent there to be babysat, kept off the streets & out of trouble, the biggest problem is the parents don’t set educational expectations nlr standards because they dont value education , but we expect these teachers to stay motivated & pull off magic

      • Timekeeeper on said:

        Thank you for your remarks. If you are actually in the school system trying to affect positive change, that is commendable and I applaud your efforts. Remarks from others however, I doubt have your sincerity.

  5. Does not matter the skin color of the Educator, there has to be a passion for being a teacher again. And parents need to emphasize the importance of education to their children and to respect the teachers.

    • cibinathat on said:

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  6. Does not matter what the skin color of the teacher is. We have to change the culture and attitudes of the homes the children go home to every night. If there is no support for education in the home and training up our children to respect adults … our schools and kids will fail period.

    ++ I mentor kids in both the elementary and high school level and the complete lack of respect for teachers and authority is appalling. I invite anyone to walk the halls of our schools and see what goes on. It is no wonder nobody and especially minority teachers drop out. The few kids who try to better themselves are mocked by out of control students as “acting white”. If the culture and attitudes are not corrected our school kids will continue to fail.

  7. What our children need is old-fashioned dedicated educators who are willing to provide the best teaching possible that will take children of color successfully into the future!!!!!

    Teachers who took their time and made sure that all the kids were on the same page, and if not,
    take those kids aside for one-on-one after school lessons.

    It does not matter what complexion the teacher may have if he/she is only there for that paycheck!!!!!!!

    • Timothy Green on said:

      So true Linda, students will respond positively & learn from a knowledgeable teacher that cares no matter what the ethnicity or gender, certain career fields require a calling to do well & teaching is one of them, many doing it now are only there because its an “easy job to get”

      • @Timothy
        Even the best and most dedicated of the teachers get “burned out” and fatigued in our minority schools. It is virtually a war inside the classroom as our teachers are beat down having to try to maintain discipline and an acceptable learning environment. Our Minority schools are literally battlefields.
        ++ The problem is that most of the openings in any school district are in the “minority schools” Hence they get all the new fresh out of school teachers. The good white teachers after a few years of working in these minority schools end up transferring to white majority schools as soon as they get the opportunity. Thus the cycle continues

      • Timothy Green on said:

        Nancy I agree with you 100% with what you wrote above with the biggest problem being that these kids parents & community frequently place nooooo value on education, value is only placed on going to school looking cool & being cool

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