One relatively simple and costless reform could decrease Black dropout rates by roughly a third, increase all Black students’ expectations around going to college, increase significantly the percentage of Black students in gifted classes, while also increase student engagement for youth of all races.
We just need to hire, retain and develop more Black teachers. The research is conclusive. These are immense studies of statewide data, and the effects are clear. I dig deep into the data below, but first let’s look at the current situation.
Black teachers in California are actually on the decline. And in our State of Black Education in Oakland engagements we heard loud and clear from families and educators about the challenges staff face and also the value they bring.
That is why we will be celebrating our Black heroes and sheroes, on 12/9 at Kingston 11, and also pushing the district and charter schools to adopt goals, timelines, and specific supports to increase educator diversity.
The Educational Effects of Black Teachers
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 Gifted Gap and Black Teachers
The allocation of the best opportunities inside schools is often tinged by bias as well. Black teachers balance the scales on access to gifted opportunities
A new, national study finds that black students are about half as likely as white students to be put on a “gifted” track — even when they have comparable test scores…
Nonblack teachers identify black students as gifted in reading 2.1 percent of the time. Black teachers are three times more likely to identify black students as gifted in reading: 6.2 percent of the time. That’s the same rate as for white students, no matter the race of their teacher.
And its not just Black students who benefit, ALL students prefer teachers of color and Black teachers, and report greater engagement
all the students, including white students, had significantly more favorable perceptions of Latino versus white teachers across the board, and had significantly more favorable perceptions of black versus white teachers on at least two or three of seven categories in the survey…
The relationship persisted after controlling for students’ age, gender, their free and reduced-price lunch status and their academic performance. The researchers also controlled for other factors like the teacher’s level of experience and education, their gender, and even outside expert ratings of the teachers’ effectiveness, based on classroom observations.
No matter what, students had warmer perceptions of their teachers of color.
I could keep going on about the data and the research support for Black teachers. And you would think that we would be rapidly increasing their numbers, developing recruitment programs and assuring they are getting professional development and support within schools. Too often they aren’t.
California’s Troubling Numbers
Looking at actual number in California, the share of Black teachers is actually dropping.
This reflects broader demographic trends, but other factors as well.
Join us to Find Solutions
And if I told you that you could reduce dropout rates considerably, equalize gifted participation, and engage more students of all races for basically free. You would think folks would jump at that.
But they haven’t. So I hope you will join us on 12/9 as part of our State of Black Education in Oakland series as we honor, youth and scores of Black educators and allies about these challenges, and also raise a glass in celebration to our Black educators that are putting in the work and making a difference.
Please join us, this is low hanging fruit that we should be planting and savoring together.