Expanding the non-White teacher pipeline

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 6/20/2016, 9:52 a.m.
“If not for the teachers that I had at PS 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in ...

“If not for the teachers that I had at PS 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island, New York, I would not be alive today. Maybe I’d be in jail today. But those teachers, they chose to invest in me and to see hope and possibility.” – Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., speaking at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools National Training

(George Curry Media) – The Children’s Defense Fund has just completed a week of national training for nearly 2,000 college students and recent graduates preparing to teach in CDF Freedom Schools summer literacy programs across the country. Most come from the communities they serve and are role models for the children they serve. It is hard to dream of college and what you can be in the future if you don’t see it and we are so proud of the young, energetic, hardworking and committed servant leaders who spend very long hours preparing to serve more than 11,000 low-income children when they return home to 95 cities and communities in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I hope many or most of them will become public school teachers who love, respect and set high expectations for every child in their care. Since 1995 more than 17,000 college-aged students, public school teachers and juvenile detention personnel have come to CDF-Alex Haley Farm for training to teach in summer Freedom Schools. Many have gone on to become teachers, principals, administrators, college professors and more.

They are filling a great need. Secretary of Education King was among the extraordinary leaders who spoke to and inspired them this year. As our first Puerto Rican-African American secretary of Education, he spoke movingly of losing his mother at 8 and his father at 12 and how caring teachers saved his life and put him on the path to success.

He graduated from Harvard University, Columbia University’s Teachers College and Yale Law School. He stressed the crucial importance of building a strong multiracial and multicultural teacher pipeline to inspire and guide all of our children, especially those who are poor and non-White. Students of color constitute a majority in our schools but teachers of color constitute only 18 percent of their faculties. Unless we are able to encourage many more talented students and teachers of color to enter and stay in the profession, this “mismatch” will only get worse.

In a Washington Post op-ed, King noted, “We have strong evidence that students of color benefit from having teachers who are positive role models, as well as from the changes in classroom dynamics that result. Teachers of color often have higher expectations for students of color, are more likely to use culturally relevant teaching practices, are more likely to confront racism in their lessons and, yes, also serve as advocates.”

On May 6 King and the U.S. Department of Education held a National Summit on Teacher Diversity where education leaders, researchers, policymakers, teachers and students spoke about the value of a diverse teaching force. Researchers noted that Black and Hispanic children in schools with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic teachers are less likely to be suspended, more likely to be recognized as better students and be placed in academically gifted classes, and more likely to graduate on time than those who attend schools with fewer diverse teachers.