Black Teachers in U.S.: ‘Frustrated, Pigeonholed, Devalued’

Nov 15, 2016 by

Black teachers nationwide, approximately 150 who have been in classrooms from among seven selected states, participated in a study conducted by the Education Trust, a nonprofit D.C.-based advocacy group, and most say they’re both frustrated and disappointed by their experiences.

These and other negative experiences resulting in their comments including feeling pigeonholed, having limited opportunities for advancement, being ignored by their peers and supervisors and routinely being expected to teach only Black students, could collectively be the reason behind the significant challenge school districts face in retaining Black teachers and the declining number of Black educators represented in America’s schools – now standing at a mere 7 percent.

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The report, “Through Our Eyes: Perspectives and Reflections from Black Teachers,” shares data collected from both public traditional and charter school teachers about their experiences in the classroom and in those school’s environments. Close to one-third had over 15 years of teaching experience, 80 percent of the participants being women.

The lead researcher of the Education Trust’s study and the organization’s director of K-12 research, Ashley Griffin, is an African-American woman from Ohio who matriculated at Georgetown University, going on to complete her masters and doctorate at Howard University.

She said one conclusion that can be drawn from the study speaks volumes to the kind of intentional work that must be done before Black teachers begin to feel that institutional racism no longer remains prevalent in the majority of America’s schools.

“Few would dispute that we’re moving toward diversity as a country, but there are many attitudes and barriers that keep Black teachers from reaching their fullest potential,” said Griffin, 37.

“For example, Black teachers, more often praised for the perception of them as enforcers and disciplinarians are then criticized for the same skills which their supervisors and peers believe make for a more negative teaching environment as well as being illustrative of one unable to effectively manage a classroom,” she said.

“Teachers face racialized tension on a routine basis, even to the point that it’s expected,” Griffin said. “Just imagine what the students are dealing with and feeling. Racial bias clearly exists in many classrooms – the evidence points to that fact. But school districts, if they are serious about diversity, must make changes to the environment.”

“Teachers have had these feelings for some time, but studies in the past usually pooled a very small number and within a limited area. Now with an organization like ours that focuses on policy and research geared toward increasing academic achievement for all students, particularly those from low-income homes and/or students of color, we have the tools and staff needed to help schools begin to provide alternatives to their policies, perspectives and the school environments. We’re a national organization; we want to reach every school district in the country that sees merit in diversifying their work force – school districts like Denver – and which benefits from such a position.”

The report also pointed to other false notions held by many majority-led schools like all Black teachers have an innate ability, if not exclusive talent, for understanding and therefore teaching Black students and should focus their attentions there.

Griffin says that’s not true at all.

“Teachers should would be better supported if they were able to leverage their strengths. With the browning of America, we’ve got to have more conversations that help us better diversify the work force – that will benefit the entire teaching profession,” Griffin said.

For more information about the report, go to www.edtrust.org/blackteachers.

Source: Black Teachers in U.S.: ‘Frustrated, Pigeonholed, Devalued’ | Washington Informer | African American newspaper, Washington D.C.

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