Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

By ELIZABETH GREEN, Staff Reporter of the 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.

"We want a school system that values educators who are invested in their students and who reflect the communities of which they are part," a member of the Center for Immigrant Families in uptown Manhattan, Donna Nevel, said.

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.

Ms. Bernstein said that she joins educators who are concerned by the trend.

Since last fall, she said she has made recruiting black and Latino teachers a priority for her staff. She convened a working group to plot ways to raise the city's figures.

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.

The 50 recipients of the Gotham Graduates Give Back award receive a $1,000 stipend before the start of the school year and are featured in recruitment materials.

"This is a high priority for us," Ms. Bernstein said. "We're looking at it across every level of teacher recruitment."

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.

Teaching Fellows make up between 20 and 25% of new teachers in the city, Ms. Bernstein said.

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, said the city should consider another move: encouraging people who are already working in the school system but not as fully certified teachers to become teachers.

"I never want to see the mistakes that were made in the '60s and the '70s," Ms. Weingarten said. "Just in watching, in being at new teacher events in the last few years, and in just scanning the crowd, I'm really, really concerned."

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by M.D., Sep 30, 2008 08:34

I am a black teacher that entered NYC public schools in 2003 via the NYC Teaching Fellows. I must say that within my cohort and my assigned college, there were definitely less than 20 black teachers that were selected for the Harlem area, an area primarily black and Latino. In my group of friends that I acquired in the process, I am the only black teacher still teaching and I'm in the process of moving on as well. I do think it's important that black and Latino communities have schools in which the teachers are mostly representative of that neighborhood just to show the kids successful images of themselves. NYC Dept. of Ed. must try harder to get more black and Latino teachers and work on retaining them as well.

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by Marion TD Lewis, Esq., Sep 29, 2008 22:59

I am a former NYC teaching fellow who obtained full and permanent certification in New York State thanks to the fellows program. I must say I have to agree with Randi Weingarten that the new statistics are troubling. It would be interesting to know what the root cause of this problem is. I do not believe that there is anything inherently unfair about the certification process. But maybe I am wrong. I know that there have been teachers who have said that there are cultural biases in the test. I do not buy into that though. I was reading an article in, I think, Scientific Mind, the other day. And they did a study using race and "expectations" and other variables to see how people performed when expectations change. It was fascinating. While this comment is not the place to really delve deeply into this issue, I would say that I think there are a few issues at play here. One is definitely in the head of the test takers. They can't get certified because they truly believe they can't pass the tests. They believe that the test is so biased they can't pass. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there are many certified teachers who are Black and who can't find teaching jobs. So some of the problem has to do with hiring practices/criterion. But I suspect it is even more complicated than that. I would suggest an indepth study to get to the real root of the problem. By Marion TD Lewis, Esq. A New York Divorce Attorney

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by clarke, Sep 26, 2008 19:02

Hell that ain't just in New York that's going on every where, It's hard for me to find a full time position, and I have a bachelor's degree working on my Master's and I know that the only reason why I'm having a difficult time is because I'm black, and I'm certified in Elem Ed, and also Music and I live in the state of Florida.

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by S.James, Sep 26, 2008 10:05

I applied for the NYC teaching fellows and they rejected me a black woman who has worked and attended NYC public schools instead they hired ivy league fresh faced white kids who knows nothing about the hood except what they study in books and watch on tv. I don't get it or maybe it's just too obvious what the board of ed. is doing.

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