The New York Times has a interesting story about the racial disparity between America’s public school students and their teachers. Estimates across the country now indicate that minority students are the majority in public schools yet, as the Times points out, more than 80% of teachers are white.
In some school districts, the disparities are striking. In Boston, for example, there is just one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Latino students, and one black teacher for every 22 African-American students. The ratio of white teachers to white students: one to fewer than three.
In New York City, where more than 85 percent of the students are racial minorities, 60 percent of the teachers are white. In Washington, black teachers represent close to half of all teachers — in a district where two-thirds of the students are black — but the Latino teaching force lags behind the growing Hispanic enrollment.
There are a number of reasons that teachers are overwhelming white; from access to college, to low pay mixed with high student debt:
In college, minority students are often the first in their families to attend, and may carry significant debt and have high expectations for future salaries. “The majority of those who successfully attend college choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend, who is starting a scholarship program for minority students interested in education careers.
The effects on students appear mixed. While some studies have linked academic performance with “children being taught by a teacher of their own race,” the study sizes were generally too small for conclusive results.
But most education experts agree that performance and success shouldn’t be measured solely by test scores: “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” Standford professor of education, Thomas Dee, told the Times.
The story is worth reading in whole, particularly for those of us who aren’t teachers, as it lays out a whole host of challenges that minority educators face.
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