The Plight of Black Teachers in Oakland, What We Should Do, and How Tony Thurmond Can Help

“Throughout my career as a Black male teacher, I’ve taught in district and charter schools. While many remain determined to highlight their differences, they’re one and the same when it comes to their failure to serve Black children and their inability to attract and retain quality teachers who look like them.”-Coron Brinson, board member of The Black Teacher Project

Coron’s powerful words resonated in the recent Oakland Post article. Please read it.  It is an important indictment of our current public education system, but it’s more than that.

It’s a call to action for the Black community, state superintendent Tony Thurmond, OUSD, and the broader community that wants to improve the schools and experiences of students within them.  The time is ripe for action in Oakland.  We know that having Black teachers improves student outcomes. You can read a prior post, Research on the Importance of Black Teachers and the Troubling Numbers in CA for more details but here is an excerpt

Black teachers have an immense effect on the outcomes for Black students.  A large multistate study with over 100,000 students showed conclusively that

Having at least one black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.

Think about that.  One Black teacher cuts the dropout rate by roughly a third.

No, seriously think about that.

The findings from North Carolina were replicated in Tennessee.  And the effects persisted

by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

The Time is Now

We also are at a time when fewer and fewer Black folks can afford to live in Oakland, and we have a State Superintendent of Education who has prioritized the importance of having more male teachers of color.

We need to start with talk and end with action.

That starting point is really convening experts and stakeholders on the issue, including Tony Thurmond, the district, OUSD, and Black educators, and coming up with concrete proposals that we would propose to the school district.  This needs to end with a commitment from OUSD, at a minimum, to set targets around hiring and retention of Black and Brown educators and also to have specific supports for them.

But we should think hard about what we can do more creatively.  How can we develop the bountiful homegrown talent we have here, how can we move support staff into teaching, or other pathways.  Not to mention the support, development and retention issues.

The Post Article outlined many of the challenges, a costly confusing and unnecessarily challenging certification process, followed by largely underserved, under resourced, and unsupportive school environments, in which Black male teachers are often pigeon-holed into disciplinarians, but not developed as instructional leaders.   

That and the institutional racism.

In the coming months, The State of Black Education in Oakland, Black Teacher Project, and we hope the NAACP and other community partners will join us in doing some learning on the issue, and also pushing OUSD for concrete changes.  I hope you will join us.

Our teachers, students and families need this.

What do you think?

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