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Minority is now majority, except when it comes to educators
Director of Editorial, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation

Minority is now majority, except when it comes to educators

The watershed decision of Brown v. Board integrated America’s schools, but not the teacher workforce.

While the Brown v. Board ruling was a necessary watershed moment in our country's history, it was also the start of unfortunate consequences.

In the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka must be considered one of the most significant events. 65 years ago this week the Court ruled that "separate but equal" schools for whites and minorities were in fact, not equal.

Sometime in 2015, another significant event occurred, this one unheralded: we crossed a threshold in the U.S., after which black, Hispanic, and other students of color were no longer the minority, comprising more than 50% of the public school population.

Yet, in the time since the Brown v. Board decision, despite desegregation and other efforts to improve urban schools in particular, there’s a persistent gap between the educational opportunities and outcomes for students of color and those of white students.

The reasons for this gap are myriad and complex, but one factor is clear: Today, the amount of educators of color is disproportionately low, compared to the student population. This is significant, because numerous studies have shown that students of color do better when they see themselves reflected at the front of the classroom, or in the school office. For example:

And yet, our public school education system is out of sync, with more than 80% of teachers – even if they are a well-intentioned 80% – being white and mostly female. To look at it a different way, only 2% of teachers are male and African American.

While the Brown v. Board ruling was a necessary watershed moment in our country’s history, it was also the start of unfortunate consequences. In schools, although students of all races were brought together, about 38,000 black teachers lost their jobs in the decades after Brown – an estimated one-third of the nation’s black teachers. In addition, by 1975 more than 2,000 black principal posts had been lost. In both cases, black educators, more often than not, lost out on jobs to white educators.


While the direct impact on educators of color from the Brown v. Board decision has perhaps faded, the issue persists. Given the evidence that speaks to the importance of educators of color to the success of the now majority of public school students, the question is how might we address the shortage?

In Kansas City, at least, a range of programs seek to encourage more educators of color to enter the profession, and to offer the support needed to retain those educators who have begun their careers.

Recruit:

Retain:

  • BetterLesson, a virtual coaching program for teachers, is developing Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning video guides with 20+ teachers based in Kansas City.
  • Amplify, an annual gathering of educators of color, provides professional development, networking and affinity groups to empower educators to persist forward.

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