Excerpted From: Hannah Quicksell, Repairing the Broken Road for Black and Brown Educators, 48 Thurgood Marshall Law Review 185 (Fall, 2023) (184 Footnotes) (Full Document Requested)

HannahQuicksellIn 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released a robust report called, “The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce.” This ahistorical report is chalk full of interesting statistics and loud proclamations, such as “[t]he U.S. Department of Education is dedicated to increasing the diversity of our educator workforce, recognizing that ... [d]iversity is inherently valuable. We are stronger as a nation when people of varied backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives work and learn together.” Despite the myriad of present-day feelings and information, the report never mentions why we have so few teachers of color.

This is not the only report to radically forget why the United States has so few teachers of color. Numerous reports and studies put forth massive amounts of data and recommendations for how to attract Black and Brown teachers, and similar to “The State of Racial Diversity” report, they fail to acknowledge the history of excluding Black and Brown teachers in the desegregation era following the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Textbooks, reports, and studies attempt to explain the lack of Back and Brown teachers ahistorically, however an examination of the historical roots of issues such as these can often shape and inform how the problems manifest and can even provide the solutions.

In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, the country adopted race-neutral policies that forced assimilation upon Black and Brown students, erased Black and Brown schools and curriculum, and subsumed schools into white educational structures under the guise of race neutrality. Most importantly, desegregation decimated jobs and opportunities for administrators and teachers of color. The first schools to be closed were Black schools and the last people to be rehired were Black educators. In the South and along border states alone, nearly 40,000 Black teachers lost their jobs between 1954 and 1972. Brown's call for equality resulted in a violent white-washing of schools and education. Black and Brown students bore the brunt of this violence, as they were divided and forced to assimilate into white schools. Along with the loss of Black teachers, Black and Brown students had white teachers, white curricula, white discipline, and white value systems placed upon them. Although there were some attempts to desegregate faculty, these efforts were stymied by narrow legal definitions of desegregation and failed to make a real effort to employ Black teachers in the immediate aftermath of Brown.

Today, schools are still dealing with Brown's repercussions of a homogenous, mainly white educator workforce. At least 36 states have implemented programs to try and attract Black and Brown teachers, but they have continually failed to hold onto their teachers because of historically entrenched policies and practices. Brown excluded Black and Brown teachers, whereas in contrast, later education reform movements overly burdened teachers, which has kept Black and Brown teachers out. Specifically, the accountability era scapegoated teachers for poor education outcomes, while underfunding schools and paying teachers abysmally small salaries. This has led to low teacher morale and a teacher shortage, especially for teachers of color and teachers who work at low-income schools. Although student populations are increasingly more diverse, teacher populations have become less diverse. The lack of teachers of color has a known detrimental impact on students of color.

The idea that we need a diverse teaching force, meaning more Black and Brown teachers is not radical or novel. A diverse teaching force benefits everyone - students, faculty, and the greater school community. More importantly, diverse teachers are needed in K-12 classrooms to serve as role models, to bridge curriculum and culture, and to fill vacant teaching positions, especially for Black and Brown students. There is nothing controversial about the fact that representation matters. However, these Black and Brown teachers should not have to be martyrs on their own individual quest over a road broken by the U.S. government. The government needs to repair the road they broke and make a livable, sustainable career path for teachers of color.

The government needs to repair the pipeline for Black educators to enter and thrive in public schools by investing in teachers and schools and by holding schools accountable to teachers' satisfaction and performance. To do this, policies and practices must be historically conscious. Additionally, the path to educational careers must be attractive because of prestige and respect, rather than implying tokenism or martyrdom. Part II of this article traces of the historical destruction of the Black and Brown workforce. Part III addresses the current state of teacher demographics, desegregation, and integration. Part III also analyzes the impact upon students and communities. Finally, Part IV proposes solutions to recruiting and keeping quality teachers of color.

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Further, this teacher accountability portion does not need to be a massive chunk of ESSA accountability, just enough to create an incentive. For example, in Louisiana high schools, schools are measured based on the following indicators: 25% end-of-course standardized test scores, 25% graduation rates, 25% ACT, and Work Keys scores, and 25% strength of diploma. If Louisiana were to add a 10% category for teacher accountability and reduce all other categories proportionally, then the vast majority of scores would be measurements of exclusively student data. However, at 10%, teacher quality, diversity, and satisfaction could make or break a letter grade, which could be the difference between a passing or a failing school. As the teacher accountability score increases, likely the 90% focusing on student performance will increase as well.

Each of the indicators directly reveal the treatment of teachers, especially Black and Brown teachers. In a color conscious way, these indicators take into account who and what was lost in Brown's wake and encourages schools to remedy those wrongs. In turn, attrition of Black and Brown teachers will increase, hopefully because teachers will be more satisfied with their careers. Teachers are the most important adults in the education system, and the time has come for states, districts, and schools to be held accountable to them.