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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Black teachers matter — integration doesn’t 

Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II lines up his class for a bathroom break at his Brooklyn charter school. Photo: Chalkbeat

Integrated schools won’t close the racial achievement gap, argues Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II in an Education Week commentary. Black teachers matter the most.

Low-income black students who have just one black teacher in grades 3-5 are more likely to graduate and consider college,” a Johns Hopkins study found.  Dropout rates for  low-income black boys fell by 39 percent, if they’d had at least one black teacher, writes Kalam Id-Din.

When black teachers taught black students from kindergarten to 3rd grade, the gap in children’s reading and math scores closed, respectively, by 71 percent and 65 percent, according to a 2004 study, he writes.

At the Brooklyn charter school where I, a black man, lead and teach, black teachers make up more than 90 percent of the instructional staff. Our low-income black students essentially close the achievement gap with their white counterparts in English classes by the end of 5th grade, and our suspension rate is below 3 percent. We eschew zero-tolerance policies and respond to discordant behavior with mindfulness and cognitive-based therapeutic practices. Student agency, not control, is the goal.

Blacks make up only 7 percent of public school teachers nationwide. It’s hard to imagine integrated schools putting all the black kids in one classroom so they could have a black teacher.

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