Berkeley schools need more teachers of color

CITY AFFAIRS: The Berkeley Unified School District must listen to community members’ pleas to improve racial diversity

Kelly Baird/Staff

At a recent BUSD meeting, dozens of teachers pleaded with the board to increase the racial diversity among the district’s teaching staff.

“When I was going to school, it was the teachers of color who made a difference in my life,” said Amanda Cardno, an educational specialist at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, during public comment. “Knowing someone in your room looks like you makes a big difference.”

The call to action, driven by members of the Teachers of Color Network — an organization aimed at increasing the hiring and retention of teachers of color — deserves a swift, dedicated response.

Berkeley school district teachers mostly work with students of color — yet only one-third of the district’s teachers are people of color, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Countless studies show that students of color perform significantly better when they are taught by teachers of color. Surrounded by teachers who look like them, students are less likely to feel unheard, belittled, alone or underrepresented.

But when the percentage of Black students is nearly three times greater than the percentage of Black teachers within the district, the school district fails to create an environment conducive to exploring and learning for its students. BUSD needs to ensure it is making a serious effort to improve the recruitment and retention of Black and brown teachers.

Realizing these efforts is especially important at Berkeley High School, where anti-Black sentiments have recently and publicly flared. Last fall, several BHS students started a racist and discriminatory Instagram account, and recently, BHS students have expressed concern that the school’s small program structure has caused segregation and incited racist attitudes.

The BUSD board and staff should work hard to implement the network’s suggestions quickly. There’s no reason that simple changes, such as starting the hiring process earlier, couldn’t be implemented immediately. Even BUSD board member Judy Appel acknowledged that the delayed hiring process results in a loss of applicants from people of color. Financially vulnerable people may need to secure a job sooner than Berkeley’s later-than-usual hiring season allows.

And while the district has already taken steps to address the lack of diversity in its teaching staff, these efforts are not enough. In November 2015, BUSD hired a specialist to set goals to recruit and retain teachers of color. But one year later, the number of teachers who are people of color went up less than 1 percent, and 67 percent of BUSD teachers were still white.

Many teachers of color have expressed the desire to leave BUSD because they feel isolated or unsupported by administrators and parents, according to Gloria Muñoz-Hughes, a Teachers of Color Network co-facilitator who spoke at last week’s BUSD meeting. If the district can’t even support its current employees of color, how can it possibly expect to hire and retain more?

And none of these attempts can make a significant difference when teachers cannot afford to live in Berkeley. The board has already explored a proposal to build affordable housing for low-income teachers; it should expedite research into the project and get the necessary funding measure on the ballot as soon as possible to create these vital homes for a more diverse teaching staff.

If the school district’s intention is to increase diversity, then it has to make a concerted effort to enact programs and plans that will allow and encourage more teachers of color to join the district.

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  • lspanker

    The Cause of Black Male Failure: It’s the “P”, not the “N” Word

    The problems experienced by a majority of young Black males in America are not connected with the use of the “n-word”, but with a lack of use of the “p-word”…parenting. Blaming the dire statistics on any other
    cause will not only fail to resolve this issue, but will make it worse.

    A school district in New York is the latest group to make a wrong turn. They’ve decided that the way to reduce the catastrophic suspension and incarceration rates of Black males is to segregate them in all
    Black schools and teach them only with Black men.

    This misguided, racist approach is counter-productive for many reasons.

    • It’s wrong because it assumes that the problems encountered by Black males have been caused by other races, and that eliminating multi-racial contact will eliminate the problem.

    • It’s wrong because it will further brainwash students with the “us-versus-the rest of America” philosophy that is poisoning an entire generation of young Black children.

    • It’s wrong because it denies the unique individuality of every child of any color, and requires skin pigmentation to be the ultimate determiner of what and how a child is taught.

    MOST of all, a segregated schools approach is doomed to fail because it cowardly avoids confronting the real cause: the homes these children come from. Horrible social behavior by far too many young Black males is no one else’s fault but the parents who are raising them. Children do what they’re taught and what they’re allowed to do by their families. Rude, lazy, gang-banging, drug-abusing, disrespectful, law-breaking children come overwhelmingly from the homes of parents who tolerate that behavior. . Here’s a small example. As the principal of a West Coast middle school at one time, the best child in my school and the worst one were both Black, and in fact, lived next door to each other in a rough housing project. Both families were headed by low-income single mothers, who were both raising several children. The mother of the outstanding child had raised clean-living children who all went to college, worked hard, had strong values, and excelled. The mother of the horrible child had raised a houseful of drug-abusing thugs, who dropped out of school, respected no one of any color, committed crimes, and were totally worthless. People of all races helped and loved the children of the effective parent. No one of any color could stand the children of the ineffective parent.

    When people complain, implying a prejudicial motive, “Why are Black males suspended and incarcerated four times disproportionately to their part of the population?”, they’re asking the wrong question. The question that should be asked is, “What is it about much of the parenting going on in the Black community, that is resulting in their sons breaking the rules so much more frequently than anyone else’s?”

    There is unarguable proof that the cause of Black male failure lies primarily with poor parenting and not prejudice. This proof is the thousands of Black parents, both rich and poor, who have raised countless children to be successful in school and beyond. They have achieved this by letting their parenting reflect the words of Martin Luther King: it’s the “content of (your) character”, and not the “color of (your) skin” that matters. Successful Black parents (and successful parents of all colors) have become so by teaching their children to find a way to succeed, rather than looking for an excuse for why they failed. And it is this group – successful Black parents – that should be leading a movement to overhaul the entire parenting philosophy of the Black community. When we do this, we’ll be attacking a primary cause of the entire race issue in America.

    When we do this – and not until we do – we’ll start to see some long overdue progress.

  • Man with Axe

    There is a flaw in your logic. If 1/3 colored faculty is not enough, because, as you posit, colored students do better with a colored teacher, it would make sense to segregate all the colored students into classes taught by colored teachers, Otherwise, some colored students are being denied an equal educational opportunity.

    If you are not willing to go that far, just how far do you think it is necessary to go to ensure the proper number of colored teachers? One half? Two thirds?

    I feel sad for the students who have to be taught by teachers who don’t look like them. Let’s make it a 100% racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation match.

    • lspanker

      I have often wondered as a white male who attended Cal a quarter of a century ago, what the response would have been from the Cal administration and faculty if I had insisted that I could not learn from the professors from China, Korea, Cuba and Pakistan, nor from the female, black and Asian GSIs because they did not look like me. I seriously doubt I would have been allowed to continue attending classes, much less graduated. The dimwits and malcontents pushing this tripe have no clue how badly this might backfire for them if they actually got their way…

  • Kurt VanderKoi

    My favorite colors are red, white, and blue.

  • lspanker

    “Knowing someone in your room looks like you makes a big difference.”

    Having a teacher that is qualified and competent makes an even bigger difference. Sad to see, however, that we have people still stuck in the racial quota paradigm, as if that’s going to improve the quality of education one bit…

    • Che

      LOL. Read some of the research on the issue before you spout out nonsense.

      • lspanker

        Please do tell me about such “research”, you little Junior Commie Revolutionary wanna-be… or is this going to be yet another of your wild claims that you make but can’t seem to back up with any facts?

        • Che

          Pathetic. Your usual.

          • lspanker

            You mean YOUR usual – make wild accusations about people that you can’t even back up, just so you can have some justification in your small mind to inflict violence on them. You’re a sick little puppy and a cowardly thug with your hero worship of a sociopathic murderer who you have adopted as a moniker and an avatar…

          • Che

            Lets continue our conversation at a cafe sometime.

          • lspanker

            Why, you plan on stealing my laptop?

          • Che

            Thought you’d be too scared.

          • lspanker

            You seem to have this fantasy that you’re some big, bad tough revolutionary when you’re nothing of the sort. In fact, you’re a moral and intellectual coward, scared to death of ideas you don’t like but can’t refute.

          • Che

            LOL. Bet my GPA is bigger than yours.

          • lspanker

            Bet you major in some racial/ethnic studies program where all you have to do is regurgitate whatever PC BS the prof told you to get an A.

          • Che

            You say the same things over and over again like you only watch FOX news. Weird.

        • BlackConservative

          you said a similar thing, I just want to know why they are against school choice.

          • lspanker

            Lefty losers like commie boy here oppose “choice” because that invariably results in rejection of their stupid and irrational ideas, which deflates their little egos and makes them angry.

      • BlackConservative

        I did, so please point me to the research that hiring blacks based on the color of their skin rather than their character and merits is better for a child’s’ educations? And why we are on the topic, why are liberals against school choice. I’ve yet to have a single one tell me.

        • Che

          Moron. Go ask a Liberal.

          • lspanker

            As usual, you make off-the-wall accusations about people, then call other people names when they ask you for sources and cites to back them up. There’s a reason that you seldom get any upvotes, here or on the other site.