Friday Reading List: The Long-Term Positive Impact of More Black Teachers and What Americans Think About Education Policy

Shantell Jamison of Ebony looks at the impact of teachers of color on student performance:

The study, published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, found that students who have at least one Black teacher in third through fifth grades were less likely to drop out of school. “The Long-run Impact of Same-race Teachers” suggest that by exposing Black girls and boys to at least one Black teacher in grades 3-5 significantly reduced the probability of low-income Black males dropping out of school by 39 percent.

Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report has more:

Previous research has shown positive short-term causal impact of black students having black teachers, in which their end-of-year test scores were higher than black students who didn't have a black teacher. But this is the first research showing positive long-term causal impact ... The teaching workforce is overwhelmingly homogenous: Teachers of color represent 18 percent of educators, and black males represent just 2 percent, according to Department of Education statistics. This, while approximately half – 49 percent – of public elementary and secondary school students are children of color.

The mismatch between teacher and student demographics would be discomfiting even without the data linking Black teachers with higher achievement among black students. Moreover, this research is good confirmation that A) improving the quality of teaching and B) diversifying the educator workforce are mutually reinforcing goals, not competitive ones.

In other news, Richard Kahlenberg, writing in The Atlantic, wonders about the fate of school integration initiatives, given that the Trump administration is backing away from a modest federal commitment to the task:

The death of a small federal school-integration initiative is connected to a much larger concern that DeVos’s primary education-reform idea—using public money for private school vouchers—will produce poor academic results for students, and Balkanize students by religion, race, and class. As my Century Foundation colleague Halley Potter noted in a new report, “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at status quo" ... What options do supporters of diversity have? Could progressives capitalize on DeVos’s rhetoric around school choice—particularly, the compelling need to liberate kids from struggling, high-poverty schools—to encourage choice within the public-school system that is designed to bring children of different backgrounds together? Should progressives pivot from Washington to focus on progressive states and localities? What is the role of foundations? What about state courts?

Kahlenberg makes a compelling case that states can - and perhaps should - take matters into their own hands. It's important to remember that, before 2001, it was rare to have a national conversation about education policy, and that our relatively recent infatuation with accomplishing educational improvement through federal intervention in the operation of schools has little precedent. I happen to believe that the federal government should have a larger role in schooling, but so long as the party that controls the federal pursestrings maintains a nihilistic view of governance, the states seem like a good place to pursue change!

Gerald Dessus, writing at Philly's 7th Ward, explains why he teaches eighth graders a course in social justice:

Teaching social justice provides us with the opportunity to help students explore their own identities and communities but to also challenge them to think about real world issues. One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is the encouragement and empowerment, to not only fulfill their dreams but, to stand up and speak out for what they believe in. Our eighth-grade social justice course is designed to help students think and speak critically about social justice issues through a historical perspective so that they can take effective action in their communities. Essentially, it is a civic engagement course that incorporates case studies from African American and South African history to encourage students to act against injustice in their own communities.

Finally this week, Joshua Starr is in USA Today explaining the disconnect between what Americans want in their schools, on the one hand, and what Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump are proposing to do on education policy, on the other:

Consider school choice, which DeVos has placed at the top of her policy agenda. Our poll reveals that, in general, Americans like the idea of choice in public education. On the specifics, though, DeVos’s positions are out of tune with majority opinion, particularly when it comes to school vouchers. Most respondents tell us that they disapprove of using public funds to support voucher programs ... DeVos is equally tone deaf when it comes to charter schooling, which is her other favored means of promoting choice. While charter schools themselves are quite popular — 64% supporting, 25% opposing in 2015, the last time we asked this question — the secretary’s views on charter school governance (specifically her fierce resistance to any kind of public oversight of these schools) are less mainstream. We asked Americans four times in the early 2000s whether they wanted charter schools to be held accountable to the same standards as traditional public schools and the response was overwhelmingly “yes.”

Read the rest of Starr's piece, and the survey data that inspired it, as I'm sure you'll find at least a few things that challenge your personal conventional wisdom. Have a great weekend!