Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Low Number of K-12 Educators Are Teachers of Color

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Low Number of K-12 Educators Are Teachers of Color

Article excerpt

When a group of education researchers, practitioners and activists gathered at Howard University in April to address the lack of diversity in the nation's teacher workforce, Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick reminded her audience that such a time had already been foreshadowed.

Nearly 60 years ago, Thurgood Marshall first "warned that Black teachers would lose their jobs to racist displacement as the nation's schools were integrated," said Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education. Marshall, in 1955, was serving at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when he reported on the impending plight of these teachers. The year before, Marshall had argued and won the landmark desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education that opened up classrooms and education to Black children.

The elimination of Black teachers from the classroom would not only be an economic loss for those educators, but a disservice to their students and a detriment for the teaching profession, says Fenwick, further sharing Marshall's troubling words during a town hall event hosted by Howard's School of Education, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers.

Today, Marshall's sobering observations have proved true, say experts pointing to the academic and social benefits that come when African-American and Hispanic students attend schools where racial and gender diversity of teachers and staff is high. But that doesn't reflect the makeup of most urban public schools when "73 percent of teachers are White and 68 percent of principals are White" Fenwick adds.

Black and other minority children are being taught in deeply racially isolated schools and are more likely to spend their entire K-12 education in public schools without ever seeing or having a teacher of color. In fact, Fenwick says, "This is the most populous generation of African-American children who have never been taught by an African-American teacher or who have never attended a school led by an African-American principal."

But Amy Wilkins, the College Board's new civil rights fellow, pointed out at a town hall forum on teacher diversity that "we have our own mess to clean up" as Black educators.

"Some of the most hurtful things that have been said about Black children have come out of the mouths of Black teachers" says Wilkins to applause. …

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