I usually save my reading recommendations for Sunday, but if you read one article this week, it must be "Black Teachers Matter" by Kristina Rizga at Mother Jones.
Rizga addresses the all-important question of why we're missing so many black teachers in this country (and she does it far more thoughtfully than the folks at Brookings) by focusing on one school in the Philadelphia district. It is a sad and frustrating tale, and it shows how black teachers have become the canaries in the educational coal mine. The lack of black teachers is a problem in and of itself, a problem that needs to be addressed-- but it is also a symptom of the larger disease of education reform.
Rizga has done her homework. Some of the data points are familiar, like the huge drop in black teachers in some urban settings-- 18.5% in Philly, 40% in Chicago, and a whopping 62% in New Orleans.
And some of the details were new to me-- the Boston Consulting Group estimates that every child who attends a charter school adds $7,000 to district expenses.
This is the story of how Broad Academy graduates like Hite of Philly are trained to "right-size" districts, how reformers have prioritized charters over integration, how the destruction of schools has become part of the destruction of the inner city.
Most of all it's a clear, direct look at how cutting schools out of a community slices right through the heart of those community's ties. Why are we losing and missing so many black teachers? Because like most schools in the country, inner city schools, non-wealthy schools, non-white schools get many of their teachers from the pipeline that runs right from the heart of their own community, and when you cut the school's ties to the community, you sever that pipeline. And if that doesn't do enough damage, you then replace that community based school with a school that is either colonial in nature, with outsiders coming to impose their view on the community school (because, you know, Those People aren't really fit to educate their own children), or you scare the school that hasn't yet been shut down, scare it into submitting to the imposed agenda just to stay alive.
Chris Emdin, an associate professor of education at Columbia University and the author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too,
told me that many black educators leave because they are forced to
become the kind of teachers they resented when they went to urban
schools. "They want to teach in urban spaces because they want to undo
that damage that they've experienced," Emdin, a former teacher, told me.
"They say, 'I hated school. I want to teach math, English, science in
an engaging way.' And the minute you try to be more creative, the
principal says, 'Nope. You gotta do more test prep. You gotta follow the
curriculum.' At every turn they are being told that they can't do what
they know in their spirit and heart and soul is the right thing to do.
It's causing teachers to leave, students to fail, and it's making these
schools factories of dysfunction."
Another piece of research I wasn't familiar with-- a Center for American Progress study that shows that urban schools spend far more time on test prep, because they have so much more riding on the results.
This is an important story, fully researched and well-told, that simultaneously gives a clear and nuanced picture of one particular school, but also pulls back focus to show the larger pattern of what is happening to our schools and our communities. You will see the link to this story in many of your social media spaces, and you should follow the link when you have a few minutes to read the whole piece. This is required reading for anyone remotely connected to education.
Read this article.