The 1954 landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education brought about integration into the country. But an unintended consequence of desegregation of schools was the mass firing of many of the nation’s Black teachers.
Research reveals that roughly 38,000 Black teachers and principals lost their jobs as school districts consolidated with primarily white teachers, principals, and superintendents. Today, only 7% of the nation’s teachers are Black, while only 11% of principals are Black.
The “decimation of the Black principal and teacher pipeline” has meant the loss of “highly-credentialed, able educators at the top levels of leadership, including the superintendency and the principalship,” Leslie Fenwick, dean emerita of the Howard University School of Education, told Yahoo Finance Live. “Black teachers and principals and superintendents are the nation's most-credentialed educators. They are more likely than their white peers to hold a doctoral degree when they assume teacher positions, principal positions, and superintendent positions.”
The lack of diversity among the ranks of educators is harmful to the school system itself, Fenwick explained. “We need quality and diversity. And in fact, the conversations around diversity and quality are like conjoined twins. You can't separate them. When you separate diversity out of the equation, we lose quality, and we certainly see that in the ranks of the nation's educators.”
Increasing the number of Black teachers is especially beneficial to Black students, studies have found. According to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, having a teacher of the same race increases a Black student’s likelihood of graduating high school by 7%, and increases their chances of enrolling in college or university by 13%.
Students are “less likely to be misplaced in special education, more likely to be recommended for gifted education, less likely to be suspended or expelled, and more likely to graduate high school in four years,” if enrolled in a school with a diverse teaching staff, Fenwick said.
Newer studies, show that Black students particularly benefit in terms of math and reaching achievements as well, she said.
Additionally, “we're getting newer research that looks at the benefit of diverse teaching staffs for white students. And the most recent report shows that white students report that they find Black teachers more caring than their white peers.”
She said "there needs to be some follow-up studies about why white students are reporting that, what they view as caring behavior, and how that caring behavior impacts their academic achievement.”
In order to increase the number of Black and brown teachers, Fenwick said, the country needs to “look at the pipeline of institutions, the engines that are producing Black and brown teachers.”
“The nation's HBCUs — Historically Black Colleges and Universities — produce today, in 2021, 50% of the nation's African-American teachers, and two Hispanic-Serving Institutions produce 90% of the nation's Latinx teachers," Fenwick said. "So if we didn't have HBCUs to use and HSIs as engines producing the next generation of Black and brown teachers, the nation will surely suffer.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.