November 19, 2019

New York City Educators Demand Greater Workforce Diversity

November 19 (New York) — Tonight, 200 educators came together to demand that leaders in Albany, City Hall and their union answer the wake-up siren to diversify New York’s educator workforce. The educators are responding to recent data revealing that more than 200 school districts in the state employ exactly zero educators of color and that both Manhattan and Brooklyn have seen decreases in teacher diversity. The summit featured keynote addresses from Dr. Chris Emdin and Regent Lester W. Young, Jr., as well as breakout sessions led by educators. 

“It is time for the leaders we elected to wake up and see teacher diversity for what it is – a key component of strong and thriving schools,” said Jeremiah Sieunarine, a special educator in the Bronx and member of Educators for Excellence-New York. “When a student of color connects with an educator who shares a common language, experiences or culture, they connect with that role model and see themselves as academic leaders. Teacher diversity gives students the opportunity to develop a wider perspective beyond school.”

The academic impact of having a teacher of color is felt long-term. Studies show that black students who have a single teacher of color before third grade are more likely to graduate and significantly more likely to attend college.  Unfortunately, even though 83% of New York City students identify as people of color, the city’s teacher workforce stubbornly remains predominantly white.

At the summit, New York educators sent more than 200 letters to elected leaders demanding that

Governor Cuomo and the state legislature double the funding for the My Brother’s Keeper Teacher Opportunity Corps program to $7 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 are prioritizing graduating excellent educators of color. 
The United Federation of Teachers leverage their sizable membership and influence to advocate with both state and city leaders to make this issue a priority in 2020 budgets.

“Solving this issue requires listening to educators of color and forcing our old structures to change. And change they must,” said Dr. Chris Emdin, author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood. “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.” 

The impact a teacher of color has on the academic achievement of students of color is also evidenced by the fact that students of color who have a teacher of color 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 Lester W. Young, Jr., a member of the New York Board of Regents. “Right now there is a young black man sitting in a classroom in Bed-Stuy who would have a world of possibilities open to him if he saw himself 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 has can be seen clearly in disciplinary data. Students of color — and especially males 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. 

“Shocking data recently released from the New York State Education Department showed the urgency of addressing teacher workforce diversity – more than 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.”

Additional Information

Event photos will be available upon request. Please email Nathaniel Styer at [email protected]

Read Educators for Excellence-New York’s 2018 report on improving teacher preparation and professional development – Ready for Day One and Beyond. 

There Is A Massive Gap In Teacher-Student Diversity 
Data provided by The Education Trust-New York