Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diversity is Shrinking in the NYC Teaching Force

The NYSun reports that the percentage of black teachers in New York City is dropping. In 2001-02, 27% of the teaching force was made up of teachers who were black, but that number has shrunk to 13%. The drop could be attributed for an initiative that required all teachers to be fully certified by 2003. In light of this, the city is beginning to focus on recruiting more black and latino educators.
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.
The article references the Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict that occured 40 years ago. Taking Note's Richard Kahlenberg shares a summary of the events that is very much worth reading. Here's the intro:
New York City public schools opened peaceably again this year, making it all the more remarkable to recall the chaos that rocked the system 40 years ago. On what was to be the opening day, September 9, 1968, the vast majority of city schools were shut down as more than 50,000 New York City public school teachers went out on strike. The day marked the beginning of the first of three walkouts that kept 1.1 million students out of school for a total of 36 days through mid-November, constituting what was at the time the longest and largest series of teacher strikes in American history. The strikes persisted for so long because they were not about teacher salaries and benefits, issues of dollars and cents which can be easily compromised. Rather, they were about different visions of racial justice and the meaning of liberalism.

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