teachers of color

How diverse is the teaching force in your district? A new analysis highlights the gap between students and teachers of color

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder

Maria Siskar vividly remembers when she was in 8th grade the grade she now teaches at Girls Prep Bronx Middle School.

She had just moved from Venezuela to Florida, but didn’t have immigration papers and couldn’t speak English. Today, many of her students can relate to her story when she tells it to them especially those who are undocumented immigrants themselves. Will my parents be able to stay in the country? some ask her. Will I be able to attend college?

“My own role of being Latina, it has helped me make more of a connection with my girls,” Siskar said. “They see me as one of them.”

Siskar’s bond with her students is backed by research: While students of color can develop deep ties with any teacher, there is evidence that having a teacher who resembles them can help improve their test scores, provide them a role model, and raise expectations of what they can accomplish.

Yet in New York City, as in districts across the country, there is a glaring disconnect between many students’ race or ethnicity and their teachers’: While 83 percent of New York City students are Asian, black or Latino, only 39 percent of teachers are, according to 2015-16 state data compiled by Education Trust-New York, an advocacy group that tries to improve outcomes for students of color. (Education Trust and Chalkbeat both receive funding from the Gates Foundation.)

“We know from powerful national research the importance of an educator workforce that is highly skilled, well-prepared, and diverse,” said Ian Rosenblum, the group’s executive director.

Below are five big takeaways from the data, along with a searchable database of student and teacher demographics in each of the city’s 32 community districts and every borough. 

(Sam Park | Chalkbeat)

1.) The biggest gap is between Latino students and teachers.

As the share of Latino and Asian students in New York City has climbed in recent decades, the number of teachers from those groups has not kept up.

According to the analysis, 41 percent of city students are Latino while only 15 of teachers are a 26 percentage-point gap. By contrast, the black student-teacher gap is 9 points and the Asian gap is 10 points.

This phenomenon holds across all five boroughs. In Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan, the share of Latino students is more than double that of teachers; in Queens and Staten Island, there are three times more Latino students than teachers.

 

2.) A striking number of schools have no Asian, black, or Latino teachers.

If teachers of color are underrepresented across the school system, certain groups are not represented at all at scores of schools.

A full 88 schools (6 percent) have no Latino teachers, 144 schools (9 percent) lack a single black teacher, and 327 schools (21 percent) have zero Asian teachers on staff.

3.) White students miss out on educator diversity too   

(Sam Park | Chalkbeat)

White students are especially likely to learn in schools without any non-white teachers further isolating students who may already have limited exposure to students of different races.

Five percent of white students attend schools without any Latino teachers, 19 percent have no black teachers, and 16 percent have no Asian teachers.

Without teacher diversity, white students like their non-white peers may be ill-equipped to enter increasingly diverse workplaces, said Rosenblum of EdTrust-NY.

“It’s important that all students see people of color in positions of authority,” he said. “Especially if you think about the fact that there are so many highly segregated schools where students may not interact with many peers of other races or ethnicities.”  

4.) Charter schools have a higher share of teachers of color, but a larger gap student-teacher gap.

For charter schools, there’s good and bad news.

On the plus side, charter schools have a slightly higher percentage of non-white teachers (43%) than district schools (39%).

However, because charter schools overall serve a higher share of students of color, the gap between their teaching force and students is larger: 94 percent of charter school students are Asian, black or Latino, while just 43 percent of their teachers are non-white — a 51 percentage-point gap.

5.) Some districts have many Asian students but few Asian teachers.

(Sam Park | Chalkbeat)

Along with Latinos, Asians are one of the city’s fastest-growing student groups. While the share of black and white students has declined since 1990, the share of Asian students has doubled, to 16 percent.

Yet as with Latinos the teaching force does not reflect this change. Today, Asians make up a large share of students in parts of the city, yet they see few teachers who look like them.

Take two districts in Queens: District 25 in North Queens and District 26 located on the edge of Nassau County. While about half the students in each district are Asian, only 11 percent of teachers are. Similar disparities exist in other areas of the city, like in Brooklyn’s District 20.

Use the tool below to find the percentage of students and teachers in your district and borough broken down by race/ethnicity. You can also see the citywide rates, and the rates for district and charter schools. 

Kids eat free

Colorado could expand lunch subsidy to high school students

PHOTO: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post
Bernadette Cole serves food to students at Prairie View High School in Brighton.

When Colorado expanded a school lunch subsidy to middle school students, the number of sixth- through eighth-graders eating lunch at school went up in districts across the state.

Twenty-sixth percent more middle school students ate lunch at school in the Greeley-Evans district, where a majority of students live in poverty, but even in the more affluent Littleton district in Denver’s south suburbs, 11 percent more middle school students ate lunch.

For school nutritionists and children’s advocates, these kinds of results make the case for extending this same lunch subsidy to high school students.

“We know the co-pay is a barrier because of the large uptick in participation when it goes away,” said Erin Miller, vice president of health initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The “co-pay” is the 40 cents per meal that families who qualify for reduced-price lunch — but who make too much money to qualify for free lunch — are responsible for. The federal government picks up most of the cost for these lunches, and since 2008, Colorado has covered the 40 cents for the youngest students, rendering those lunches free to their families. This program has gradually expanded, reaching middle school students in legislation passed last year.

A bill that passed out of the House Education Committee Thursday would cover the 40-cent cost difference for high school students, a longtime goal of advocates.

“The state of Colorado has been trying to ensure that kids in poverty have access to food for a decade,” said Danielle Bock, nutrition services director for the Greeley-Evans district and a public policy and legislative consultant with the Colorado School Nutrition Association. “This is the final step.”

Miller said hunger affects children in school not just academically but also emotionally, with hunger even associated with higher suicide rates. Advocates have pushed to expand the state subsidy because participation in school lunch goes down as children get older, even as their caloric needs go up.

Currently, households that earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,630 for a family of four, qualify for free lunch through the federal program. Families who earn between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty limit, or up to $46,435 for a family of four, qualify for a reduced-price lunch. It’s children from that second category families who will benefit if this bill becomes law.

Bock said the vast majority of school food service agencies in Colorado have unpaid lunch debt that, under federal law, they can’t just write off. School districts either pick up the costs out of their general fund or try to collect from parents, which sometimes leads to the controversial practice of “lunch shaming,” in which schools serve less nutritious and appealing alternative lunches to students whose parents owe money.

Lawmakers started out wanting to ban lunch-shaming, but school nutritionists convinced them it would be better to have the state cover some of the extra lunch cost for families who are struggling to make ends meet.

When Denver ended the practice of serving “alternative” meals to families who hadn’t paid for lunch, the amount of lunch debt skyrocketed, with a large portion of it coming from families who had not signed up for subsidized lunches and might have the means to pay.

According to a fiscal analysis, Colorado plans to spend $2.2 million on lunch subsidies this school year. Expanding the program to high school students would cost an additional $464,000 next year, with that money going into school food service budgets.

upheaval

Frustrations over principal turnover flare up at IPS School 43

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
School 43

It began with a tame slideshow presentation about hiring a new principal at School 43. But the Wednesday night meeting soon spiraled into a venting session — as parents and teachers pleaded with Indianapolis Public Schools to send in more staff.

Bakari Posey, the principal of School 43, departed for another job last week in the latest upheaval at the school, which is also known as James Whitcomb Riley. The assistant principal, Endia Ellison, has taken over in an interim capacity, as the district searches for a new leader for the school, which has faced significant turnover in recent years.

“This school needs help,” said Natasha Milam, who has three children at School 43, which serves about 450 students in prekindergarten to eighth-grade. “We need you all to listen. And we need you all to hear us.”

Milam, who volunteers at the school, said that because the building does not have enough staff to handle behavior problems, students are suspended far too often — meaning students are at home doing chores or getting into trouble, instead of in class learning.

Many in the neighborhood had hoped Posey, who is from the community, would be able to turn the school around after the previous two school leaders left their posts just months into the job. But under Posey’s leadership, the school continued to struggle on state tests, with just 7 percent of students passing both the math and English exams last year.

And after two-and-a-half years on the job, Posey left and began working this week as assistant principal at Fall Creek Valley Middle School in Lawrence Township. In an email Thursday, Posey said that he left because he thought the position in Lawrence would help him grow professionally and it was closer to his home.

Posey also disputed the picture of School 43 as a campus in crisis. He said this school year, there hasn’t been “turmoil in the school in regards to student behavior,” suspensions were down, and the campus has been “very calm.” (Suspension numbers could not immediately be verified.) He also said that Indianapolis Public Schools provided “great support” to school staff.

Nonetheless, parents and teachers’ at the meeting Wednesday said the school has serious problems.

Ryesha Jackson, a 4th-grade teacher who has been at the school a little over a year, said there are not enough staff to help with student discipline problems. That makes it hard for educators to teach, she said.

“We have fights almost every day,” Jackson said. “I guess my question is, ‘What are we doing right now to support teachers?’”

School 43 is a neighborhood school, on the north side of the district. More than 75 percent of students there are black, and almost 70 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price meals — about the district average.

Indianapolis Public Schools interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said district and school leaders would work together to develop a plan to address the urgent problems at School 43.

“But what I can’t give you right now is the plan for that help,” she said. “That takes time and coordination with the school staff.”

The district is gathering input about what school community members are looking for in a principal before posting a listing, officials said. Finalists will be interviewed by committees of parents, community members, and school and district staff. The goal is to name a new principal by April.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting was a small contingent from the IPS Community Coalition, a group that is often critical of the Indianapolis Public Schools administration, particularly the district’s partnerships with charter schools.

Michele Lorbieski, a resident from the north side who ran unsuccessfully for the Indianapolis Public Board with the support of the coalition last year, said the district cannot just rely on the next principal to fix the school.

“What I’d hoped to hear tonight was what the school district was doing to put things in place to stop this revolving door of principals,” she said.

District officials did not directly address why turnover has been so high among principals at School 43. But Brynn Kardash, a district official who recently began working with the school, said that the central office is doing more to support it this year.

School 43 was added this year to the transformation zone — an effort to help troubled schools that includes dedicated support and regular visits from a team at the central office, said Kardash, the district’s executive director of schools for the zone. Educators in the zone get additional training, extra planning time, and help analyzing student data, she said.

“The goal is to really support Ms. Ellison in work that she’s doing,” Kardash said, “which then leads to, hopefully, teachers feeling that support in the classroom.”