Black teachers matter, for students and communities

September 19, 2019 | The Hechinger Report

When it comes to teachers’ roles in shaping anti-racist communities, it’s better to show than to tell. Meaning, society is better off when students see diversity in the ranks of teachers rather than when they hear lessons about the importance of inclusion from a monolithic group of educators. Representation matters. The number of black teachers across the country has been declining over the past twenty years, with individual schools becoming less inclusive. Research shows that black students who have black teachers have better academic outcomes, are suspended less often, and face higher expectations from their teachers.

According to a 2017 report on teacher diversity by the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank focused on democracy and education, minority teachers are more motivated to work with minority students in extremely segregated schools. This may reduce teacher turnover in “hard-to-staff” schools. These teachers have higher academic expectations for minority students, which translate into higher achievement and social growth for this population; they also serve as positive role models.

But there’s more at stake than the educational benefits of having black teachers for black students. Ultimately, all students benefit from teachers of color, as exposure to individuals from all walks of life can reduce stereotypes, prevent unconscious bias, and prepare students to succeed in a diverse society.

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