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.