I have a serious inquiry for school administrators: Is a teacher applicant’s race a factor when you consider hiring them? Let me be more specific: Do you think about your minority student demographics and then consider the positive impact that having a teacher who looks like them will have on them? Do any of these factors play a role in whom you hire? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that White women were the only ones applying for teaching positions because they are, by far, the only ones I consistently see being hired. In schools that are filled with predominantly Black and Brown children, the teaching faculty remains lily-white. I know I’m not the only one who sees something dangerously wrong with this picture. Something has to change—and fast.
deserve to see examples of Black excellence in classrooms every day to help overcome the increasingly inevitable obstacles they will face by mere virtue of being Black in America. Black children
deserve Black teachers who will understand their plight in life from first-hand experience. Black children
deserve to have Black teachers as tangible role-models and mentors. I know this and you know this, but if administrators, the ones actually responsible for hiring teachers in their respective buildings, don’t subscribe to this belief, business-as-usual will occur and White women and men will continue to be the sole face of the teaching profession. According to the
New York City Department of Education:
Currently, the NYC Department of Education is comprised of approximately 75,000 teachers, of those roughly 8.5 percent are male teachers of color. Meanwhile, male students of color make up 43 percent of our 1.1 million public school students.
This statistic is a slap in the face when held side-by-side with numerous statistics that unquestionably show that
graduation rates of Black male students increases exponentially when they are exposed to even one Black male teacher during the course of their school careers. Many would like to promulgate the illusion that Black teachers are not being hired because they are not entering the field of education or that for some odd reason they are not applying for teaching positions.
Hear me and hear me well: Those are bold-faced lies! Racist practices in education prevail. That’s why Black teachers are not being hired. White administrators are out of touch with the culture of the Black and Brown students who fill their schools. Black children, unless they score well on standardized tests, are not deemed valuable human capital by many administrators, unworthy of highly effective teachers of color. That’s why Black teachers are not being hired. Don’t believe me? Take pause with what I’m suggesting? Well, listen to this: According to education writer
In 2012, the black and white teachers who applied for jobs in [an unnamed] district were equally qualified, researchers found. However, white teachers received a disproportional number of job offers. Although 13 percent of job applicants were black, only 6 percent received offers. On the other hand, 70 percent of applicants were white, and 77 percent received offers. Black teachers disproportionately received job offers from schools with black principals. Black teachers were also disproportionately hired in schools with high rates of low-income and minority students.
I’m sounding the alarm because what I’ve seen across a few schools on only the fourth day of this new school year alone is enough to make it sickeningly obvious to me. Unless we, Black teacher leaders, make this issue public and put it in caps on the header of the educational agenda, Black teacher applicants will continue to submit resumes that will never even be looked at. And, Black and Brown students will continue to sit in classrooms wondering when they will ever have a teacher who looks like them and who “gets” them like only a Black teacher can.
An original version of this post appeared on New York School Talk.
Vivett Dukes (nèe Hemans) is in her eighth year as a middle and high school English Language Arts teacher. For her first four years in the DOE, she taught in an all-male, all minority, urban public school in Southside Jamaica, Queens erected for the express purpose of counteracting the pervasive school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown boys. Currently, she is ...