If you haven't checked out Slate's ongoing series about the shifting demographics of America's schools, you should! I wrote a longer piece - coming soon! - about this topic, and how it intersects with our political moment, but for now you should check out one of the ten stories, including this one about getting more black men to become classroom teachers:
America’s teachers are disproportionally female (75 percent) and white (83 percent), according to recent federal data. Black men make up less than 2 percent of teachers, though minorities now make up a majority of students in public schools. And while they are woefully underrepresented, black men can serve as crucial male role models: They have unique insight into the discrimination that can be experienced by students of color; and, when it comes to understanding the life and educational challenges experienced by many students, black male teachers can offer empathy that is often based on firsthand experience. Data also suggests that students of color are often unfairly penalized when graded by white teachers—but teachers of color don’t appear to exhibit this same grading bias against white children. In fact, the tendency of white teachers to grade black and Latino students more harshly could explain up to 22 percent of the achievement gap between white students and students of color, according to a 2008 study. The problem is obvious, but the solution so far has been lacking.
Philadelphia is ahead of the game on identifying the solution set. The Black Male Educators Convening is working on a set of recommendations that hopefully will move the needle in the City of Brotherly Love:
The Black Male Educators Convening, formed in August, plans to announce its recommendations for attracting and retaining Black professionals. Ideas include organizing job fairs and launching a teacher residency program and public awareness campaigns. “There is an institutional problem at the both the higher education level and within our public school districts that creates barriers to access and retention for Black male professionals,” said Vincent Cobb, a school administrator for Mastery Charter School and a co-founder of the group, also known as The Fellowship.
Those institutional problems start in the K-12 system, where we know that black students receive a disproportionate share of the messages that they are not welcome in public schools. The Civil Rights segment of the United States Department of Education reaffirmed that devastating truth when it released a trove of new data on disparities in schools. The Washington Post's Emma Brown pulled out some of the most startling statistics, including:
1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor. The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection for the first time counted how many schools have a sworn law-enforcement officer: 24 percent of elementary schools and 42 percent of high schools. Among high schools with predominantly black and Hispanic populations (i.e., more than 75 percent of students were black and Latino), more than half — 51 percent — had an officer.
No matter how many times I've done it - and I've done it A LOT - I will never be comfortable walking through metal detectors, bag screeners, and a row of police officers in order to enter a HIGH SCHOOL. It's crazy. Yes, we need to keep our children safe, but not at the expense of making our children feel like criminals before even walking into school. Okay?
In other news, Laura Waters looks at the ongoing discussion about race and social justice in education reform through a Jewish lens; I share this lens, and it's hard to be Jewish and not keep both social justice, and a visceral disgust of oppression, close to one's heart. Also, be sure to check out Nikole Hannah-Jones NYT Magazine piece about choosing a school for her daughter.