January 20 (New York) — More than 40 educators came together today on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to rally on the steps of City Hall and demand that leaders in Albany, at City Hall and in their unions answer a call to diversify New York’s educator workforce. For the last year, Educators for Excellence-New York members have been calling for more programs that work to recruit, train, and graduate more educators of color, including a successful push for the New York Board of Regents to expand the Teacher Opportunity Corps II.
At the rally, New York educators delivered over 700 letters to elected leaders demanding that:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature double the funding for the My Brother’s Keeper Teacher Opportunity Corps program to $6 million. This state grant program partners with institutes of higher education to recruit, train and support new teachers of color entering the profession.
The New York City Department of Education use its power as the largest employer of public school teachers in the country to prioritize building relationships with institutes of higher education that prioritize graduating excellent educators of color.
The United Federation of Teachers leverage its sizable membership and influence to advocate with both state and city leaders to make this issue a priority in 2020 budgets.
The educators point to data from The Education Trust-New York showing that 10,513 black and Latino New York City students do not have a single educator that shares their race or ethnicity. Recent state data revealed that both Manhattan and Brooklyn have fewer educators of color today than 10 years ago. Even more concerning, more than 200 school districts across the state employ no educators of color at a time when many communities are facing teaching shortages in critical areas.
“Solving this issue requires listening to educators of color and forcing our old structures to change. And change they must,” said Michael Simmon, a social studies teacher in the Bronx and member of Educators for Excellence-New York. “An educator that shares an identity with a student is a powerful catalyst for education elevated by a shared culture, but it is clear how we train and prepare educators of color is currently stalled. Future educators of color are failed when we ignore where they come from, their culture, and are inflexible to the unique challenges standing in the way of them becoming a classroom leader. If we want to ignite our students’ imagination and passion for learning, we must do everything necessary to ensure they see themselves in the folks leading their education.”
Having a teacher of color has long-term academic impact for students. Studies show that black students who have a single teacher of color before third grade are more likely to graduate, significantly more likely to attend college, and perform three to six percentile points higher on reading and math tests than students of color without a classroom leader of color.
“Communities across New York will thrive when we diversify our teaching workforce,” said Leton Hall, a high school science teacher in the Bronx and member of Educators for Excellence-New York. “Right now there are young black students sitting in a classroom in the Bronx who would have a world of possibilities open to them if they saw themselves in the role model standing at the front of his classroom. Furthermore, there are students from new immigrant communities in every part of New York that attend schools where not a single person shares their language or cultural background. Those students are being failed by our schools. We must make teacher diversity a statewide priority.”
Beyond academics, the impact a diverse teacher workforce is clear in disciplinary data. Students of color - and especially male students of color - are less likely to be subjected to suspensions or expulsions if they have a teacher of color. Additionally, all students report more favorable impressions of the instruction provided by non-white educators compared to white educators.
“Recent shocking state data show the urgency of addressing teacher workforce diversity - over 200 school districts employ zero educators of color, and both Manhattan and Brooklyn are seeing reductions in the number of educators of color,” said Paula White, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-New York. “Every year, thousands of new educators enter New York City public schools for the first time. It is imperative that we ensure that as we are building an impactful workforce for future students that it more closely reflects the vibrant diversity of our student population. It is time for Governor Cuomo and the legislature to declare that teacher diversity matters by providing the funding necessary to bring more excellent teachers of color into the profession.”