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Harvard Research Shows Teachers as Segregated as Students

LatinaLista — Every red-blooded American school student, while enjoying their school break, are inevitably performing a time-honored-holiday tradition as well — counting down the days till school starts again.

Too many students will return to schools where self-segregation is the norm, no matter how diverse the student body.

Unfortunately, no amount of adults pushing kids to “play nice” and “get along” with others different than themselves change the outcome of when they’re in junior and senior public high schools hanging out with those who look and talk like them.

Now comes documented research that the kids really aren’t to blame. After all, the students are only following the role models they see before them.

A new Harvard research paper, The Segregation of American Teachers shows teachers in K-12 public schools across the country to be just as segregated as their students.

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University surveyed over 1,000 public school teachers and found some unsurprising things:

White teachers teach in schools with fewer poor and English Language Learner students. The typical black teacher teaches in a school where nearly three-fifths of students are from low-income families while the average white teacher has only 35 percent of low-income students.

Teacher with her students
(Source: Design for Change)

Latino and Asian teachers are in schools that educate more than twice the share of English Language Learners than white teachers.

The percentage of white teachers is lower in schools that did not make adequate yearly progress, a standard defined by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Schools with high concentrations of nonwhite and poor students tend to have less experience and qualified teachers despite NCLB’s emphasis that qualified teachers be equally distributed.

For anyone who has visited an inner-city school, it is common knowledge that teachers and administrators see those schools as being a type of punishment in their profession.

Since most of these kinds of schools lack updated materials and equipment, have such a diverse student body that learning styles are not so easy to conform into a one-size-fits-all curriculum and are located in the rougher parts of town, it’s no wonder that most “white” teachers, as the survey found, would opt to work in those schools where they feel more comfortable and don’t have to work so hard in a profession most teachers already feel receives substandard pay.

School districts have quietly looked the other way when staffing their schools with diverse faculties. Or adhere to an outdated philosophy that students learn better from people who look like them.

Well, it’s safe to say that students learn better from those who can communicate with them, show interest and support and understand that all children can learn — as long as they’re shown someone believes in them.

No matter their color.

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