Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Elizabeth Green, New York Sun, September 25, 2008

The percentage of new teachers in New York City public schools who are black has fallen substantially since 2002, dropping to 13% in the last school year from 27% in 2001-02, city figures show.

The change has dramatically altered the racial makeup of the new teacher workforce, which last year included about 400 more white teachers than it did in 2002 and more than 1,000 fewer black teachers.

The overall teaching force has been less affected: Black teachers made up 20% of the workforce in fiscal year 2008, down from 22% in 2001, while the percentage of white teachers has stayed constant at 60%.

The changing demographics come in a school system that is increasingly made up of non-white students.

Educators and advocates said they have been troubled by the data for several years—and they said they are especially troubled this year, the 40th anniversary of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis, in which black community leaders challenged the city to make school staff more representative of the city.

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The Department of Education’s executive director for teacher recruitment and quality, Vicki Bernstein, said responsibility for the declining diversity lies with a state requirement that all public school teachers be certified by 2003.

The requirement was introduced in 1998, forcing the New York City public schools to scramble; before 2003, 60% of new teacher hires were uncertified, and 15% of the overall teaching corps in the city was not certified.

School officials said the mandate had a chilling effect on diversity, because the state certifies very few black teachers. According to a state report, in the 2006-07 school year, black people made up just 4% of new certified teachers who identified their race.

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She said her strategies so far include visiting historically black colleges to recruit possible teachers; publishing advertisements that focus groups show appeal to black and Latino applicants, and making a concerted effort to follow through with those candidates as they make their way through the application process.

The city has also halted a program to recruit teachers from outside of America and kicked off an initiative to attract teachers who themselves attended city public schools, by offering a special award to new recruits who are city school graduates.

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The techniques were more aggressively instituted in recruiting for the group of teachers who earn certification while teaching, the Teaching Fellows, Ms. Bernstein said.

Those results are showing up. In the 2006-07 school year, 32% of fellows were black or Latino. This year, 37% were, school officials said.

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