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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teachers of color aren’t magic solution

Teachers of color are the latest magic bullet for our education woes, writes Alina Adams on New York School Talk. Black teachers allegedly “get” black students.  Students of all races prefer teachers of color, reports NPR.

Adams is raising three children with her husband, who is African-American and a teacher.

Her daughter “loved having one teacher who was Black and Jewish – just like her,” Adams recalls.

But “the teachers of color my children have learned from the most . . all had one thing in common,” she writes. “They were excellent teachers.”

Like her children’s best white teachers, they were “knowledgeable, passionate, engaging, consistent, in control, able to set high standards and help their students achieve them, as well as not prone to accepting excuses when students didn’t.”

The teachers of color her kids disliked were “disorganized, used collective punishment, refused to answer unsanctioned questions (possibly due to ignorance), and deadly dull. Just like their least favorite white teachers.”

Her husband thinks being a male teacher of color makes him seem “cool” to white students. Black students are “somewhat more wary of him, and less likely to listen to him as an authority figure,” writes Adams.

He said he thought what made him a popular teacher – and, more importantly to him, an effective one – was his mastery of his subjects (a Nuclear Engineering degree from MIT makes him quite qualified to teach middle-school math and high-school physics), his ability to break complicated material down into comprehensible chunks, his classroom control skills (modeled by him, in that he rarely raises his voice), his insistence on high standards for all, and his genuine fondness for his students. Is being Black a bonus? Maybe. But he doesn’t focus much on that.

“All things being equal, it’s wonderful when my children have competent and charismatic teachers of color,” concludes Adams. But excellent teaching is more important than color.

Having at least one black teacher in elementary school raises the odds of high school graduation for black students, according to a study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics. For black boys from low-income families, the risk of dropping out decreased by 39 percent.

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