Too many white teachers?

By fall, a majority of public school students will be non-white, while more than four in five teachers are white.

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Of 3.3 million public school teachers in 2012,  82 percent were white, 8 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were black and about 2 percent were Asian, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

This year, 48 percent of the students in public schools are nonwhite — 23 percent Hispanic, 16 percent black and 5 percent Asian — and that percentage is increasing.

It’s not clear that minority students learn more from same-race or same-ethnicity teachers.

Schools with low-income, non-white, high-need students have trouble recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers, writes James Marshall Crotty in Forbes. “It is dispiriting to try to teach young people who do not want to be there.”

He recommends paying “the best teachers a dramatically increased salary to take the most difficult assignments, including teaching in schools with a high percentage of special needs students or where the learning culture is weak.”

Elevating the status of the teaching profession by raising quality and admissions standards would attract better teachers, Crotty argues.

Finally, volunteer mentors — ideally retired teachers — could observe novice teachers for their first year in the classroom in an apprentice-master model.

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  1. In addition to being “dispiriting” to try to teach people who do not want to learn it is also probably useless.

  2. PhillipMarlowe says:

    “He recommends paying “the best teachers a dramatically increased salary to take the most difficult assignments, including teaching in schools with a high percentage of special needs students or where the learning culture is weak.”

    Based upon conversations I have had with teachers in a urban/suburban district, most would have no problem with such a pay structure.
    Unfortunately, the few times districts have offered this in schools in the DC area, the difference is a pittance.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Also, this is insane if the goal is to maximize the benefit to society. Sending your best teachers to teach the kids who don’t care (as opposed to the high achievers) is very wasteful of limited resources (the best teachers). Sigh.

  3. gahrie says:

    Education requires good students, not good teachers.

    The best student in a class with the worst teacher will still learn. They will largely teach themselves, but they will learn.

    The worst student in a classroom with the best teacher will still not learn anything. Until he wants to.

    • So all public schools ought to be selective and all teachers should be replaced with cigar store Indians?

      I just don’t see it. Neither the “selective” part nor the lack of importance of teaching skill.

      Maybe it’s time for a ground-up rethink about the ideas that went into the establishment of the public education system? Maybe that’s what’s already happening?

  4. Crimson Wife says:

    One article I read on this made a really good point: in the past, schoolteaching was one of the few professions open to college-educated minorities (especially women). Today, bright minorities are heavily sought after by other professions looking to diversify their ranks. If you can easily make six figures plus as a physician, lawyer, etc., you’re probably not going to be interested in making $40k as a brand-new teacher.

  5. Jerry Doctor says:

    The “Best” teachers means what? According to many administrators the best teachers never send kids to the office for discipline problems. Not even when the classroom is out of control. Others think the teachers who never have parents of “good” students complain about how much work their kids have to do are the best. Even when the lack of complaints is because the teacher’s standards are a joke.

    But even when we are talking about really high quality teachers, the fact they are able to produce outstanding results with honors students doesn’t mean they can achieve anything with unmotivated students.

    I recall an Honors and AP Physics teacher in my department when I was the Science Chairman. All of his AP students would take the exam and all of them got 4’s and 5’s. His first year students would return from college to say how much better prepared they were than most of the students in their college classes. But when I’d have to have him cover a low level Earth Science class it was always a disaster. He simply couldn’t relate to these future dropouts.

    The idea that bribing teachers to move from high level classes with motivated students to classes filled with students that don’t want to be in school is not a solution.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    My daughter, once teaching in a pretty average mid-middle class high school, took a 2/3 pay cut to go to a parochial school because the first school was getting so many problem kids. The new principal was of the same ethnic group and didn’t want to/couldn’t enforce any remotely recognizable discipline. Much less get the kids to do their homework.
    After being assaulted twice, my daughter left. She sells jewelry on the side. But her students at the new place are respectful and do their homework and the parents are supportive and she isn’t being assaulted, flipped off, or insulted.
    So, given my daughter’s experience, I would be interested in just how much extra it would take….
    And then, given the horrendous circumstances, would the “best” teacher just try to keep his or her head down long enough to put a couple of years’ retirement into the bank before escaping?

  7. Miller Smith says:

    Why in the world is the left wing and minorities demanding a return to racial segregation in the schools?
    The Left: Where racism was invented.

  8. momof4 says:

    There’s no way that significant numbers of the “best” teachers will agree to move to “high-need” schools unless and until their safety (and that of their cars) in the neighborhood is ensured and classroom behavior is required to be appropriate (with permanent removal of serious offenders as necessary). That’s before arriving at the hard fact that many, if not most, of the “best” schools, with the “best” teachers, are reflective of the kinds of students, parents and communities who place a high value on education. Jerry Doctor also makes a good point; teachers who are highly successful with the most capable students are not necessarily as successful with others. Even in ES, some teachers simply aren’t able (or willing) to deal with kids who don’t “get” things fairly easily.

  9. tim-10-ber says:

    The more I read the more I think some (many?) students need to have proof from the teacher that the teacher believes in the student, will be there, will continue to push the student to achieve BEFORE the student buys into education. What if we have it backwards that it really is up to the teachers to build real relationships with students, to understand where they come from (vs where the teacher comes from) before many kids will step it up. It takes everyone working together to have a good educational outcome for kids. Someone must make the first step — my bet is that someone is the teacher.

    • momof4 says:

      No, I think that’s the parents’ job – it’s the way Asians and successful families of all colors and flavors do it. I’ve heard too many teachers from “high need” schools say that their kids are taught, at home, that they don’t have to respect their (white) teacher – or worse, that said teachers are “out to get” their kids. And, respect is a two-way street; teachers and admins (especially admins) need to refrain from idiotic actions that deserve nothing better than ridicule – let alone those which should result in their dismissal.

    • Every student in the room is ‘coming from’ a different life experience in diversified areas like mine. The skin color has nothing to do with what they can learn if given the opportunity. What they need are teachers that they can learn from, rather than today’s teacher who presents material for the lowest level of the students present, two grade levels below the grade of the classroom, refers students who dont’ ‘get it’ to a resource teacher, and ignores everyone else’s needs until teach for the state test prep brings up the omitted topics in the review books…at which time only the gifted or the tutored have sufficient background to learn before the state test arrives.

      Respect for the student includes having him learn material at his level, not shoving him into a class that he isn’t prepared for, or dumbing down that class so the other students have nothing to learn.

  10. Bostonian says:

    Somehow Asian children are able to learn from white teachers. The teacher’s race does not matter if the student has the brains and the desire to learn.

  11. If we look at the demographics for the ages of the teachers, what is the situation?

    It is insane to compare teachers vs students….the immigration waves don’t line up at all. And you have to wonder…if skin color X is needed to teach skin color X, why wasn’t that accomplished in the home country? Answer is of course economics and culture. Nothing to do with skin color.

  12. Jerry Doctor says:

    From the AP article:

    “New studies from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association are calling attention to this “diversity gap” at elementary and secondary schools in the United States. The groups want more to be done to help teachers more accurately mirror the students in their classrooms.”

    Suppose that I, a white male, told the administration that for the good of the students I will only teach the white chemistry students and a black teacher should get the black chemistry students. What are the odds I’d ever get a teaching job again?

    • Guide The Youth says:

      Students develop the desire to learn when they see models of people (who look like them) in their community getting opportunities to achieve and succeed in life. At present, I’m a substitute teacher pursuing a Master’s in Education. I’ve substituted at dozens of schools in two different counties. And after seeing so many White teachers, and so few African-American teachers, I’m beginning to question whether or not I’ve chosen the right profession. I’m concerned about how well I’ll relate to other teachers (who are so very different than I am) and how well I’ll fit in with the social climate and culture of most schools. Also, I notice a disconnect between most White teachers and African-American students. There is obviously no genuine love there for the African-American students. The teachers, appearing to have stoic, and even a resentful-looking face whenever they see an African-American sub in the building. The students, a look of shock whenever they see that it’s me in their classroom greeting them instead another White substitute or White teacher. Lastly, I must say that White teachers have a tendency to dress much too casually for instruction, in my opinion and from my observations. Students, especially students who don’t often see models of professionalism, need to see professional-looking educators who care about their job and how they present themselves to teach our students. It is not appropriate to show up for work, looking like you’ve just has a morning run or leave your classrooms looking like a hurricane has had its way with it. High expectations of yourself and your students are evident in everything, including how you present yourself to our kids and how you relate to them.