September 30, 2020

E4E-New York member testifies to New York City Council on teacher diversity

E4E-New York member Jasmine Byrd testified in support of a bill to collect data on teacher diversity and retention. The bill is based on a policy recommendation in our 2019 report, ”Ready for Day One and Beyond,” authored by Jasmine and other City educators. Check out her testimony below.

Good morning. I am Jasmine Byrd, an English as a New Language (ENL) teacher in District 11 and member of Educators for Excellence-New York. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of the City Council’s efforts to improve teacher diversity in New York City schools. In particular, I want to voice my strong support for Int. 1615-2019.

We are at a crucial point in our nation's understanding and awareness of racial equity and inclusion. In our classrooms, this tension is evidenced by the diversity gap between staff and students. Nationally, 40% of schools do not have a teacher of color on their staff. And in New York City, while 83% of the student population are students of color, less than half that number are teachers of color. This gap means that thousands of students do not see themselves validated in the curriculum and staff positions where implicit and explicit biases take a toll on their learning and self-perception. Research has shown that all students benefit from being taught by teachers with diverse backgrounds. And having even just one teacher of color in grade school generates significant gains in the academic outcomes of black students from low-income families, who face disproportionate inequities in their school environments.

Int. 1615-2019 would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report data to the Council on teacher diversity, retention and turnover that would provide a foundation for understanding this diversity gap. The data would paint a more complete and updated picture of what the current state of racial inclusion and representation looks like in our schools. It could provide much-needed context for overdue conversations and inclusive policies that would boost student performance while creating more equitable opportunities for teachers of color.

In closing, I once again voice my strong support for the Council’s efforts to recruit and retain talented and diverse teachers in New York City’s public schools. I hope that we can all work together with the immediacy and intent that this issue demands of all of us. Thank you.

Jasmine Byrd
Educators for Excellence – New York