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New Orleans Struggles to Diversify Its Teachers Following Reform

New Orleans Struggles to Diversify its Teachers Following Reform

New Orleans has been on the national stage since it embarked on a journey to one of the most radical school reforms in recent history following Hurricane Katrina.

Its successes and failures following its reconstructed system of mostly charter schools has been the topic of analysis since it started. Now, Slate Magazine is taking a look at diversity in New Orleans’ teaching force over the past few years.

Diversity in teaching is a national issue. Though 54.7 percent of students are predicted to be non-white by 2022, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that over 80 percent of the teaching force are white individuals.

In schools where over two-thirds of students are minorities, relating to an all-white teaching staff can be a disadvantage to learning, studies have found.

Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind study found evidence that racial mismatch between students and teachers can result in a 20 percent increase in suspensions as disciplinary tactics.

Since New Orleans set out to reform its schools, its lost much of the diversity it formerly had in its classrooms.

"Between 2004 and 2014, the percent of black teachers plunged from 71 percent to 49 percent. And far fewer teachers working in schools were raised in New Orleans—resulting, many say, in large cultural gaps between the teachers and their majority-black, native New Orleanian students,” Slate Magazine said.

In some hiring years, the article says, 70 percent of all hires are white.

Slate Magazine spoke with a recent addition to New Orleans teaching force, Raven Foster, a black woman born and raised in the city.

Foster says she believes that a teaching force made up mostly of white educators in such a diverse city is unequipped to deal with the cultural needs of its students.

"Foster believes that some white teachers, however well-intentioned, were ill-equipped to handle the vast cultural gaps between themselves and their students,” the article says.

"They often missed nuances in language and behavior. They became overly punitive when stressed. She remembers one white teacher screaming at a student for not having the right supplies—hardly a major classroom lapse.”

Many officials working in New Orleans agree, and efforts to hire both new and veteran black educators into the city’s booming charter schools is becoming priority number one.

Read the full story.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

6/6/2016

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