Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In the past twenty-five (not 15!) years, the overall number of teachers of color in DC has decreased by almost a third.

In one of my last posts, I wrote about the decline of and need for more teachers of color and about my own PK-12 schooling at DCPS.

In private conversations, a few DC friends have asserted that while they don't entirely agree with the Rhee and now Henderson regime of policies, that there was "nothing racial" about them. I'm not so sure. I don't think that Rhee, etc.'s approach to reform has been intentionally or explicitly racial, but they have been racial at the very least in perception and effect.

For one, I refer you to this post I wrote in response to Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire's take on education reform in DC, where he continually refers in coded and loaded language to the majority black DCPS system that Rhee came into as "incompetent," "corrupt," and full of blinding race pride. This seems to encapsulate the collective mind-set of the DC rhee-formers and repeats many erroneous bits of what became collective wisdom that so many even earnest journalists repeat.

Second, the three sets of numbers I will present tell somewhat of a racial story.

Before I present them, a few caveats:

1.  Data sets 2 and 3 (from 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 respectively) include both the charter and the district sectors. While both may be complicit in the decline of teachers of color, since in DC DCPS and the charter schools system are totally separate entities, one can’t hold the division responsible for the human resources policies of the charter sector nor the inverse.

2.  Teacher recruitment and selection plays a role in the number of teachers of color in DCPS (and in any school system). Changes in DCPS’s approach to teacher recruitment and selection began way before Michelle Rhee’s chancellorship. In 2000, the DC New Teacher Project contracted with DCPS that same year to do an alternative teacher certification program and not long after to run teacher recruitment for DCPS. Coincidentally, however, Kaya Henderson was the Executive Director of DC TFA in the late 1990s, and in 2000 became head of the DC New Teacher Project (an organization founded and headed by Michelle Rhee).

3. As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, there has been a decline nationally in the percentage of teachers of color and the decline is projected to continue. I'm not sure if this is a decline in gross numbers or just in proportion or percentages and I can't seem to find any hard numbers that make that distinction. In any case, DC may simply be part of that same trend.


Now for the data:

1. There is, historically, very little in the way of data about DCPS teacher and staff demographics I asked DCPS watchdog, budget analyst and Keeper of all DCPS Stats Mary Levy what she had from the past and the only thing she could find was the table below which is DCPS data for school year 1988-1989, provided to the Committee on Public Education (COPE), a project of the Federal City Council. She got the data from DCPS in her role as a consultant to COPE, and included it in her report to them:

Teacher Demographics for DCPS 1988-1989

Race/ethnicity
Female
Male
Unknown
Total
Percentage
Black
4,747
1,207
6
5,960
93%
White
223
107

330
5%
Other
58
28
15
101
2%
Total
5,028
1,342
21
6,391


Race/ethnicity
White
Black
Other
Total
Number
330
5,960
101
6,391
Percent
5%
93%
2%


2. This is for the 2007-2008 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2011 Teacher Diversity Report (see Appendix A, page 12):

Teacher Demographics for DC 2007- 2008

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Asian/Pac Islr
Nat Amer
DC 
26%
65%
5%
X
2%


3. This is from the 2011-2012 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2014 Teacher Diversity Report (see Table 2 on pages 7 and 8):


Teacher Demographics for DC 2011-2012

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Other
Two or more
DC
36%
52%
7%
5%
7%


So,
  • In 1988-1989, DCPS teachers were 93% black, 5% white, and 2% other. Or, 95% of color and 5% white. 
  • In 2007-2008, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 65% black, 26% white, 5% Hispanic, and 2% Native American (The Native American number is footnoted as doubtful. In surveys, “Native American” is occasionally interpreted as meaning “I was born in America”). Or, 70 - 72% of color and 26 to 28% white.
  • In 2011-2012, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 52% black, 36% white, 7% Hispanic, and 5% other, Or, 64% of color and 36% white
Or, for the bar graph version:



So, while there has been an increase in non-black teachers of color, which is a positive trend, since 1989, there has been a decrease in the number of black teachers in DC public and charter schools from 93% to 65% to 52% and an overall decrease in the number of teachers of color in DC from 95% to 72% to 64%. That is an overall decrease of 41 percentage points for black teachers and 31 percentage points for teachers of color overall. There has also been an increase in white teachers, from 1/20th or 5% of the teacher corps in 1988-1989 to a little over 1/4th or 26% in 2007-2008 to well over a third or 36% in 2011-2012. In short, there's been an overall increase in the number of white teachers in DC from 5% to 26% to 36%.

Meanwhile the student body has changed but not proportionally so, or rather, the demographics of the teacher population have not changed in proportion with the student demographic changes. In DC in 2007-2008 there was a 21 percentage point difference between the percentages of nonwhite teachers and nonwhite students. In 2011 - 2012 that difference grew to 28 (source: CAP Teacher Diversity Reports, Table 1). Here are more data points regarding DC public and charter school student enrollment:
  • In Fall 1989, the enrollment of DCPS was 90.7% black, 4.6% Hispanic, 3.7% white, and 1% Asian. Or, 96.3% of color and 3.7% white (source: DCPS Annual Membership Report, Fall 1989). 
  • In 2007-2008, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 83% black, 10% Hispanic, 5% white, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander. Or, 94% students of color and 5% white (source: Appendix A, page 16 of CAP 2011 Teacher Diversity Report).
  • In 2011-2012, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 78% black, 13% Hispanic, 7% white, 1% Asian, and 1% two or more races. Or, 93% of color and 7% white (source: Table 3 of CAP 2014 Teacher Diversity Report).

Hence, the decline in teachers of color does not correspond with the decline in students of color and the increase in white teachers is significantly out of step with the increase in white students.

Lest you think I believe Virginia somehow exists outside of a glass house, I will be checking into their data next. Stay tuned. . .


UPDATE 9/18: I'm not sure how I missed this, but Melinda Anderson published a piece in Ebony in May 2014 succinctly chronicling the story of black teachers from the Brown v. Board era to now (in NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, and Philadelphia). Please read that here.

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