New York City schools employed a larger percentage of teachers of color than elsewhere in the state, according to preliminary data the state education department released Tuesday. But that number did not match the diversity of the student body of the five boroughs— and the teaching force actually became less diverse in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the findings from the 2016-17 school year showed.
Students of color are more likely to have negative perceptions of school when they don’t see themselves reflected in their teachers and are more likely to be subjected to discriminatory discipline practices, according to research cited by state education department staffers. Because of these issues, the state legislature ordered the state education department to study teacher diversity. A finalized report is expected in the next few weeks.
School districts across the state saw disparities between teaching force demographics and student population, according to the preliminary findings presented to the state Board of Regents during their November monthly meeting.
An estimated 80% of teachers were white, with 200 districts across the state reporting no teachers of color. Meanwhile, New York state students have become less white and more racially diverse from 2010 to 2016. The number of Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial students have gone up, while the number of black students has dropped. Together these students accounted for more than half of the state’s student population.
While the Regents called out familiar suggestions to improve teacher diversity, such as helping prospective educators pay for certification exams, frustration bubbled up about the data.
“It’s tragic when we look at these numbers,” said Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown, noting that the Regents routinely have this conversation without finding concrete solutions. “What’s even more tragic is that over the last eight or nine years, the numbers have gone down.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature should invest in boosting existing programs that “recruit, train, and graduate excellent educators of color,” said Paula White, director of Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher advocacy group that has been following the issue closely.
For the city’s part, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza should recruit people from universities and teacher prep programs that have a “known record” of supporting prospective teachers of color, White said in a statement.
Here are a few highlights from the draft report.
What does New York City’s teaching force look like?
Teachers of color represented 42% of New York City’s teaching force, the draft report said. That was the highest share of anywhere in the state. (Yonkers came in second with 28% of non-white educators.)
Still, more than 80% of New York City’s students are black, Hispanic, and Asian.
Meanwhile, teaching pools in Manhattan and Brooklyn have become less diverse from 2011 to 2017, the presentation showed, though Tuesday’s highlights did not have exact numbers. In that same timeframe, a higher percentage of teachers of color staffed schools in Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island.
City education department spokesperson Danielle Filson said her department “will continue to focus on increasing the diversity of our teachers.” She pointed to NYC Men Teach, a program focused on boosting the number of male teachers of color, and teacher pathway programs for paraprofessionals as city efforts to improve teacher diversity.
“Our schools, including our teachers, should reflect the diversity of the city,” Filson said.
How about gender?
A quarter of teachers in New York state were men, according to gender data that was only provided on the state level.
Men made up 75% of career and technical education teachers, 45% of those who teach physical education, and a third of social studies instructors. But “very few men,” according to the presentation, taught those learning English for the first time, gifted and talented programs, or early childhood education.
Though the state presentation did not provide a racial breakdown of male teachers, city data showed that just 8% of teachers were black, Hispanic, or Asian in the 2015-16 school year. At that time, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the NYC Men Teach program, which the state education department highlighted on Tuesday. The program exceeded its goal to put 1,000 more men of color “on course” to becoming teachers, according to a city education department spokesperson.
Why aren’t there more teachers of color?
High college costs can be a barrier to choosing teaching as a profession, especially when the field has lower salaries that grow at a slower rate than other jobs, according to the education department. People of color are more likely to have higher college debt and owing more over time, state education department staffers said.
Student teachers of color have reported feeling a lack of diversity among their peers, based on literature the department collected and conversations at a recent New York State Association of Teacher Educators conference. Some student teachers felt that their instructors are biased and perceive their racial, ethnic, and linguistic differences as barriers to teaching and learning effectively.
Even when teachers of color are hired, they report feeling like they must be the disciplinarians because of the color of their skin, or that they should be the leaders of culturally responsive education.
What could help?
There were “limited” efforts to entice young people into the teaching profession and too few programs that support students, such as ones that help candidates earn a stipend while they study for their certification — one of the noted barriers to getting into the field — according education department staffers.
Regent Kathleen Cashin said the report was all the more reason to have the state cover the hundreds of dollars it costs to take a certification exam for all applicants. (The state already offers vouchers to economically disadvantaged applicants.) That idea, she suggested, should be on the Regents’ budget wishlist for Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers. The city has nine state-funded programs to boost teacher diversity, by pairing new teachers with mentors or helping teachers earn a salary while earning their certification, according to the state education department.
New York City also has partnerships with universities, such as the historically black schools Howard University and Morehouse College, and targets teachers of color through career fairs, webinars, newsletters, and social media, a city department spokesperson said.
“Failure by this generation of elected leaders to prioritize this issue robs future generations of students of color of the benefits of having role models of color leading their classrooms,” White, from Educators 4 Excellence, said in her statement.