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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Andre Perry: The educational value of having a black teacher in a classroom

The educational value of having a black teacher in a classroom

The educational value of a black teacher
Coronavirus is offering a chance to ‘reimagine’ education, but if the new landscape doesn’t include efforts to recruit and retain more black teachers, reform will be a farce

Adapted and reprinted from Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities by Andre Perry, with permission from Brookings Institution Press, © 2020 by Brookings Institution.
If, after a natural disaster decimated a city, I proposed to a governor or a school board that they replace a significant portion of a majority- white teaching corps with black teachers because doing so would potentially confer educational and social benefits, I’d probably be denounced as a racist and publicly excoriated.
But the reverse is exactly what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and it’s what could happen again across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic if we’re not paying close attention. Thousands of black teachers were laid off after the hurricane and replaced by white ones. When schools come back after the coronavirus, black teachers are once again more likely to be lost to the budget cuts and health problems following in its wake.
If this is our chance to reimagine schools, remembering this history and prioritizing the protection of the black teaching force will be essential to create better places for black students to learn.
A cursory reading of the literature on black teachers should have given politicians and reformers pause before forcing their mass exit, and should do so again, but alas, even the research has apparently been devalued. For years, researchers such as Gloria Ladson-Billings, Pedro Noguera, Lisa Delpit, Adrienne Dixson, Christopher Emdin, and James A. Banks — all people of color — validated the need for black teachers in New Orleans schools through their studies on teachers of color. Their scholarship serves as the foundation for inquiries like one by Stanford University researcher Thomas Dee who, the year before Katrina, found that black students of both sexes who had a black teacher scored 3 to 6 percentile points higher on standardized tests in reading than those who did not. Dee found a similar increase in the math scores of black students taught by a black teacher.
In a 2017 study published by the Institute of Labor Economics, researchers found that low- income black male elementary school students who were paired with a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grades were 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school. The researchers also found that matching low-income black students of both sexes with at least one black teacher between the third and fifth grades increased their aspirations to attend a four- year college by 19 percent.There’s something about living in brown skin that gives you a different set of expectations for your black students than those of your white peers.
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