Friday, December 19, 2014

Long time, no blog

Hello readers!

I had thought that a doctoral program in Educational Leadership would mean I would be doing lots of reading, writing, and blogging about education. But it didn't exactly turn out that way. The reading and writing part held true. I kept up with all of my education reading and it served me well in my studies. In fact, after long days of reading academic journal articles, reading education news and blogs was a way I unwound and relaxed. And, of course, I wrote: notes, questions, and thoughts about what I was reading and then papers and projects and exams.

But the blogging, well, not so much. And then all of a sudden it is the end of the semester and I haven't posted anything in over three months. Nothing. Not even one post. Not even a draft. And I went days and weeks without tweeting.

My negligence of this blog was in part due to lack of time; between my classes, my graduate assistantship, my family, and a few humbling hard balls that life threw at us, I didn't have much free time to blog to or to keep up with the reparte that goes with blogging and tweeting. Sometimes even if I had the time, I didn't have the mental energy.

The desire also wasn't totally there. This doctoral program was in part to be an exercise in learning and studying education in a way I hadn't before--from an academic standpoint. As such, my perspective has become even more circumspect and cautious. There is just so much complexity to how people learn, how people in K-12 settings behave, why educators and decision-makers make the choices they do, and in how policy works. Although some guiding principals and values remain as influential as ever on me, I am more reluctant than ever to make what could be unsubstantiated claims or take strong stances.

I also realized early on this semester that the classroom is not like my blog. I am not the only one in the room. I don't get to remain in the bubble of my own experiences, thoughts, and writing. This is a time to share but also to listen and absorb. My classmates and my professors have experiences and thoughts, too. And while we benefit from learning from one another, we also learn how we are informed differently and in some cases misinformed or uninformed.

On the other hand, in grad school sometimes I have found myself having to come up with something to say in order to contribute, whereas here when I have something to say, I say it and then I hope I might be contributing. I hope I have started to lay the groundwork to contribute academically--I've got some ideas :) But in the meantime, while I have breather, I may have few things to say here, outside of the doctoral classroom that I've been saving up. Stay tuned. . .

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pre-doctoral program warm-up: A look at high school teacher turnover in Hanover County, Virginia

This past summer in conjunction with a local public education advocacy group, Friends of Hanover Schools, that I am a part of, I engaged in a little pre-doctoral program warm-up. 

At a Hanover County School Board forum in the spring, I had expressed concern about high school teacher turnover  and was told more or less that my concerns were unfounded. Other members of the FOHS leadership team had also been long concerned about high school teacher turnover, so after they and I spent some time gathering information from the division, I compiled a report of my findings. Other members of the leadership team gave feedback and provided edits for the final version. I may do something with this later or I may decide it is too J-V :)

Here is a summary with links to the documents I used:

In the 2013-2014 school year, Hanover County Public Schools increased high school teachers’ workload and they went from teaching five of seven classes a day to teaching six of eight. After teachers protested the policy, saying it would affect the quality of instruction and feedback they’d be able to give students, Friends of Hanover Schools began to hear reports of low morale, of higher than average teacher resignations and retirements, and of increasing numbers of teachers seeking positions elsewhere. I took a closer look at the data regarding teacher turnover in Hanover and compiled a report of my findings which was distributed to school division leadership.

According to budget and retirements and resignations data provided by Hanover County Public Schools, the combined turnover rates for all four of the comprehensive high schools are:
School yearResignRetireTotalTotal teachersPercentage turnover
10 year average400804804795.64910.01%
*The data for 2013-2014 is as of August 6, 2014.

Other than the schedule re-alignment, several factors may have influenced teacher turnover in Hanover County such as the economic recession after 2007-2008, retirement incentives offered in 2007 – 2008, and school-site specific issues such as administrative instability or transition.

According to studies of teacher turnover (compiled by Mary Levy), the national average for teachers who leave a school district system leavers is 8% with higher poverty systems yielding closer to 15 – 20%. Hanover County high school teachers leave, on average, at a consistently higher rate than the national average. Furthermore, for the past two years, the percentage of turnover that can be attributed to high school teachers has grown to 43.5% of all teachers. In all other years, with one exception, the percentage was roughly one-third. Finally, based on an assumption of a teacher corps of 1500 teachers, the system-wide attrition rate was 6.87% for 2012-2013 and thus far 5.05% for 2013-2014, but the four high schools consistently have rates higher than that, closer to 10% on average.

The data available are limited but do paint a picture of close to double-digit turnover rates at the high school level, Furthermore, the numbers spiked in 2012-2013, when a policy change to a six of eight teaching schedule was announced.

FOHS and I urge the school division to undertake a more qualitative study of teacher satisfaction rates by:
  • Finding out more about the kind of teachers who are leaving. How much experience do they have? Are they National Board certified? Hanover Scholar Educators? STEM-area teachers? REB-award winners?
  • Opening up channels for all teachers and staff to give positive feedback and constructive criticism. Healthy schools and school systems are ones that welcome informed feedback of its employees.

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




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

Asian/Pac Islr
Nat Amer

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

Two or more

  • 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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

To fix racism is to fix poverty is to fix education

I am cooking up a follow-up post to my recent post about teacher diversity but given recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I feel I needed to finish and publish another post I have been planning for a while.

As I explained in that post about teacher diversity, growing up going to the schools that I did in DC, with the classmates and teachers I had, was a positive experience that meant I grew up surrounded by people of color as well as by regular conversations about race and racism. This has granted me a unique white person's point of view, one that is perhaps a much more open and tolerant one. However, it has also meant that not only did I sometimes have blinders on as to my own work to do on racism, I had blinders on as to the extent of racism in our country. For example, I went through a it's-no-longer-about-race-it's-about-poverty/ it's-the-classicism-stupid phase, but I've since been convinced otherwise. Classicism certainly exists, but racism is also still alive and well. So the blinders are now off, but only in so much as they can be off given that one is always blinded to a certain extent by their own perspective/privilege, experiences, and surrounding culture.

The post I was planning was in honor (or maybe in response to?) the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, but not in the conventional sense. I am not big on anniversaries, for one. Second, for as monumental as Brown v. Board was, it has not accomplished  (see, for example, this 2005 report on segregation in DCPS) what many seem to says it did or hoped it would. And I think that's at least partly because so many other policy areas, such as housing (think of restrictive housing covenants) did not or have not adequately, if it all, addressed racism in their manifestations.

My life's work is teaching, writing, and education. I know a great deal of change can be affected within classrooms, schools, and school systems but the current reformers' saying "fix education and you've solved poverty" is dangerously and hopelessly myopic, especially when many reformers and their funders are actually hostile to the idea (like the Waltons) of solving inequality or don't agree ( like Bill Gates) that income inequality is a problem.

But also those who want to work on solving poverty first can be myopic; they don't always look at what causes poverty. So much poverty among people of color is caused by institutionalized racism. People who say we must fix poverty in order to also fix education must also acknowledge that we must also fix institutional racism in order to fix poverty. As I said recently on twitter:
And by the way, by pattern, I don't mean conspiracy; I mean a pattern.

So, in honor of Brown v. Board's 60th anniversary and in light of what's happened in Ferguson and in so many other places, I am asking that all education organizations, groups, and high-profile individuals, of all stripes, endorse the following agenda:
  • Reparations for those descended from slaves. African-Americans are responsible for generating huge amounts of wealth for our country and for individuals in it and the vast majority have yet to truly share in that prosperity. I don't know if reparations would be awarded to individuals or to communities, but if compensation to 9/11 victims and their families could be worked out, then so can reparations to African-Americans.
  • Compensation should also be paid to African-American victims of racist housing policies, racist education policies, and racist public safety and criminal justice policies. 
  • Major reforms to current public safety policies, many of which disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. Included in this is de-militarization of police forces, an end to stop and frisk policies, better pay and funding for police departments so that there is no more reliance on corrupt civil forfeiture practices, better training for police officers that emphasizes preventative, non-discriminatory neighborhood/community based policing.
  • Major reforms to our criminal justice system, which also disproportionately and negatively impacts people of color. (Even if you don't agree with me on the humanitarian reasons, look at it from a financial standpoint. It is unreasonably expensive to imprison people both is terms of real costs and in terms of long-term costs, including those to society.):
    • The dismantling of the War on Drugs. Decriminalization of most illegal drugs (notice I did not say "legalization"; I said "decriminalization"--those are two different things). 
    • Immediate clemency for all those imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses. A shifting to mental health care rather than imprisonment for offenders.
    • Better funded and staffed public defenders' services.
    • An end to imprisonment for non-payment of fines, and an end to imprisonment for minor, non-violent offenses. (I am not advocating for no consequences, mind you, just for ones other than imprisonment.)
    • No more privatized prisons and the return to the public sector of all privatized prisons.
    • An end to capital punishment.
  • Healthcare policy reform including Medicaid expansion for now and a single-payer system eventually.

    I hope that fellow education activists, educators, and education policy people understand that such policy reforms will only help our students and improve our schools and school systems and that they will endorse these recommendations. These flawed policies are impediments to the progress of people of color and people living in poverty, as well as to the progress of our society.

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    The Common Condescension

    Politico had a particularly agitating article about the Common Core out yesterday entitled, "Moms winning the Common Core war."

    First  of all "war"? I am about to declare war on writers of ridiculous headlines. . .

    Anyway, to get to the content of the article. Basically, Common Core advocates have decided that they need a new PR strategy:
    Supporters of the Common Core academic standards have spent big this past year to persuade wavering state legislators to stick with the new guidelines for math and language arts instruction. Given the firestorm of opposition that took them by surprise, they consider it a victory that just five states, so far, have taken steps to back out. 
    But in a series of strategy sessions in recent months, top promoters of the standards have concluded they’re losing the broader public debate — and need to devise better PR.
    Granted there is plenty of misinformation surrounding the Common Core debate, and there are plenty of people who are misinformed, some willfully so, Glen, ahem, Beck, or who just hate Obama and the United Nations. But otherwise, this approach is maddening. It's the same reformy solution to disagreement and dissent that we've witnessed for nearly a decade, i.e., there's nothing wrong with the substance of our reforms, it's just the style with which they're presented. Or, to use business parlance, there's nothing wrong with our product, we just need to sell/market it better. 

    The contempt is just dripping:
    “The Common Core message so far has been a head message. We’ve done a good job talking about facts and figures. But we need to move 18 inches south and start talking about a heart message,” said Wes Farno, executive director of the Higher State Standards Partnership, a coalition supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
    We’re so good at all our statistics and data and rational arguments … [but] emotion is what gets people feeling passionate,” Oldham said. “It may not be the most comfortable place for the business community … [but] we need to get better at doing it.”

    People who criticize the Common Core are just emotional. We have to speak emotional back to them. Here we've been giving them the facts and well, I'll be! That doesn't work. Those emotional people, the are too simple-minded to handle the truth and the facts, gosh darnit! Let's get tugging on their heart-strings with some videos.

    And then there's this:
    “The bottom line here is that parents need more information, and maybe we haven’t been good enough at telling them the story,” said Karen Nussle, a veteran PR strategist who runs the Collaborative for Student Success.
    Right, parents and Common Core skeptics just need more in-for-ma-tion. They don't have enough! That's why they don't like the Common Core--because they don't know anything! Gee, I wonder how that could be when the Common Core has only been reported and/or promoted on every major news outlet and education blog there is.

    Finally, there's Common Core Noonegivesashithowyoufeel architect David Coleman:
    Common Core supporters acknowledge they also erred in publicly belittling opponents as silly, ignorant or outright kooky. “We make a great mistake by caricaturing the opponents of the standards as crazies or people who don’t tell the truth,” David Coleman, an architect of the standards, told Bloomberg EDU recently.
    Yes, again the thinking is, we made a mistake in how we "belittled" and "caricatured" opponents rather than we made a mistake in not listening to our critics and acting on some of their criticisms. At some point, you actually have to listen to people and act upon on their (legitimate) criticisms and feedback, not send a kinder, gentler salesperson to their door armed with some ridiculous video about some student who learned a new word.

    Just as I have always agreed that many of our nation's public school systems need reform, I agree that they need a common basic, broad set of knowledge, concepts, and skills. The reformers and Common Core advocates started out with decent popular support and had a tremendous opportunity and unheard of sums of money to work on this. Too bad they've squandered both.

    Monday, July 28, 2014

    I'm so DC that. . .

    Glenn Sullivan, a recent graduate from Lake Area New Tech Early College High School. in New Orleans published an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, "My school district hires too many white teachers":
    In my school, as in many schools — especially in reform-oriented school districts — a lot of the good, black teachers have been replaced by younger white teachers. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nearly 75 percent of the city’s public school teachers were black. That began to change after Katrina, when charter schools began to grow in number. The percentage of minority teachers across New Orleans public schools dropped from 60 percent to 54 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to data compiled by Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. This troubles me. Particularly upsetting to me was the departure of the music teacher, a veteran black educator who helped run the New Tech school choir and put together trips for students.

    This sparked some conversations in the grassroots ed reform community about teacher diversity. In one instance, Rutgers student, aspiring teacher, and education activist Stephanie Rivera blogged about reactions to the New Orleans student's commentary on the Bad Ass Teachers' facebook page, which in many cases was dismissive of Mr.Sullivan's point of view. From Stephanie's post:
    What I find frustrating about most of these comments is their complete dismissal of the greater issues reflected by this post. The comments that argue that “there aren’t enough teachers of color” are ignoring the boundaries that keep many people of color pursuing this career. Many had oppressive\racist\non-cultural relevant education experiences, so many are reluctant to enter an environment they grew up hating. Many ignore that college-access, especially for people of color, is limited. Thus, completely leaving out the opportunity to even pursue a teaching certificate. As long as students of color are given more barriers than their white counterparts to go into teaching, the longer teachers of color will be the minority.

    Another irritating argument includes that “it doesn’t matter what color a teacher is, as long as the teacher is good, that’s all that matters.” That is completely missing the point of the importance and benefits of students of color having teachers who look like them (see: Study: Minority students do better under minority teachers, Why students need more Black and Latino teachers). Yes, all teachers regardless of race can be trained to be effective teachers of black students, but black teachers can “be more adept at motivating and engaging students of color.” Additionally, by having students of color see people who look like them in successful positions, it can help prove to them that they can hold such positions too. Also, comments such as “color doesn’t matter,” is possibly one of the most racist statements one could make. By saying, “I don’t see color,” or “color doesn’t matter,” is basically saying “I don’t see your experiences, your stories, your struggles. Those elements of your identity and life don’t matter to me.” Colorblindness is not justice, equality, or being a good teacher. Colorblindness is ignoring the very issues that your students need you to fight against.
    Indeed. According to the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color,
    • Nearly half of the nation’s students (44 percent) are students of color, but the latest data show that just one of every six teachers (16.7 percent) is a teacher of color."
    • Research also shows, overwhelmingly, that students of color perform better – academically, personally, and socially-when taught by teachers from their own ethnic groups." 
    • Current trends indicate that, by 2020, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of 5 percent of the total teacher force, while the percentage of students of color in the system will likely exceed 50 percent.
    And, according to this Washington Post analysis, the student-teacher diversity gap is widening:
    Students of color make up almost half of the public school population, but teachers of color make up just 18 percent of that population nationwide. And the disparity is even larger in 36 states. It’s largest in California where 73 percent of students are nonwhite while just 29 percent of teachers are nonwhite.
    Teacher demographics can have an impact on students, CAP argues. Studies have shown that minority students fare better when taught by minority teachers and nonwhite educators may also find it easier to relate to students with whom they share a background.

    First of all, I wish that white teachers would not take assertions such as "we need more teacher of color" so personally or as an attack on them. I am a white teacher who has mostly taught students of color. While I am certain that I can always do better as a teacher and in particular with students of color, such statements and conclusions are not directed personally at me or usually at other white teachers; they are addressed to public education as an institution. Second of all, the research shows that there are objectively disproportionately fewer teachers of color and that students of color do objectively do better with when taught by people who share their culture and background. Instead of focusing our energies on defending ourselves, we white teachers should a) see how we could help attract and retain more teachers of color to the profession and b) reflect on and act upon improving our own practice in order to counter racism and to be more culturally appropriate for all students

    And this is one instance, as public education and edu-color activist Sabrina Joy Stevens has pointed out, where people of color run into the arms of reformers--when they experience racism or culturally irrelevant education in the public education system and when statements about those experiences aren't acknowledged or acted upon. I would expand on that to say that such educators are no better on matters of race than reformers like Michelle Rhee are. Reformers like Rhee may differ with most teachers on what shows and how to show what a great teacher is or what makes great teaching, but she sounds the same as defensive white teachers when she says, I don't care who you are or what your background is, all that matters is that the teacher is a great one.

    And it is not just students of color who should have more teachers of color. White students need more teachers of color, too. I'm going to go in a more personal direction now and I hope you'll stick with me. As I may have mentioned before, I grew up in DC in the 1970s and 1980s. I went to DC Public Schools for my entire PK-12 career. I was in the minority in all four DC public schools I went to and the majority of my teachers, principals, and counselors were black. I can't quantify the influence this has had me, and frankly, for a long time, it was just an experience I took for granted, as the natural state of things because I didn't know any different. But as the realizations of this influence have come to me in different pieces and in various stages and varying levels of intensity, I can qualify it.

    My mother only recently told me the following story: My older sister and were young enough to be in elementary school and we were having a conversation with our parents about racial demographics in this US. It came up that the US was majority white and my sister and I asserted that it was majority black. My mother felt pleased that our experiences in DCPS had led us to such a conclusion, but as a civil rights lawyer, she also wanted to make sure we understood the reality, that the rest of the country was not, in fact, majority black even if our city and our schools were, so she made sure to correct our understanding.

    When I got to college (and I went to "Diversity University") we had these frosh year workshops (there are no freshman at Wesleyan) where we explored topics of diversity, racism, sexism, gender, and homophobia. During one discussion in the spirit of openness the workshops encouraged, one white male student from rural New England said he had never been around or gone to school with so many students of color. That really surprised me, especially because Wesleyan didn't really seem to me to have so many students of color. I looked around and thought that, well, I have never gone to school with so many white people. I don't think I said anything at the time, but it was then that it started to dawn on me how unique my experience might have been. Toto, we ain't in DC anymore. For the most part I received a great education and I dearly love the friends I made there, but I experienced a certain amount of culture shock at Wesleyan and wonder sometimes if I would have been happier at a big state school.

    This came up a few other times at Wesleyan--many of my classmates took a look at my blond hair and blue eyes and soccer cleats and assumed I was fresh out of a Massachusetts boarding school. This took me aback because my parents would never ever have sent me to a DC private school, let alone to a boarding school in New England, though in retrospect that's kind of what Wesleyan is, only for older teenagers and in Connecticut. I remember finally breaking out my high school yearbook to show one dubious hallmate from New York City that my school was not anything like a Massachusetts boarding school.

    Again, I can't say anything concrete to speak to how my PK-12 schooling experience was good for me but I know I wouldn't trade it. And, I don't claim that the DCPS schools I went to existed in some racism-free bubble, that I am personally immune from contributing to racism or that I have no work to do. Just as being in a majority black setting in school influenced me, so must have the racist culture outside of school (see Shankar Vedantam on how the culture we grow up in influences our point of view).  I think given the racial composition of my neighborhood (mostly white) and given what I could pick up from the culture that surrounded me outside of school once I got older than I was during the afore-mentioned US demographics conversation, I well realized the role of racism in our country. But imagine what it was for a middle class white girl with educated parents to be the minority in her school and to go to schools where African-Americans were in most of the positions of authority. As I said, I have long taken this experience for granted, but now imagine how different (for the worse) I would be and how differently I would think and see the world without it.

    DC, like New Orleans, has lost many black teachers (a post on this is in the works). The principal, counselor, and teacher corps in DCPS is markedly more white than it used to be even when factoring in that the white population of DC has increased.

    And, while they are not in the minority, my own children are now in schools that are fairly diverse socioeconomically and racially (though not that diverse beyond back and white), I noticed right away when we moved here that the vast majority of their teachers and principals and people in leadership roles are white. This isn't to say that the teachers and administrators they have aren't good at what they do--they are fabulous, but it troubles me that there isn't more diversity. My husband and I can have frank conversations with our children about US history and racism and about racial dynamics in our own communities, but those conversations ultimately can't replace experiences.

    I'm so DC that I know that the lack of teachers of color in my childrens' schools is a problem, but I am also so DC that this lack still surprises me and I get overwhelmed by where to start to try and change it, in what can sometimes feel like a foreign country.

    But I have to start somewhere, right?

    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.