All the New Young White Teachers (And School Board Members)

The school board in New Orleans has a white majority governing body for the first time in about 20 years, says today’s Times-Picayune.  This reminds me of my penultimate story at the Sun, in which I reported that the percentage of new teachers in New York City who are black has been falling substantially since 2002. Does this matter? The city Department of Ed here in New York and this blurb at Teach For America’s Web site say yes. From TFA:

The impact individuals from under-represented groups have on our recruitment focus is a function of two factors – that they are more likely to bring a deep understanding of the communities in which we are working, and that they are better able to focus others on what matters most because of the credibility that comes from their life experience.

Hat tip: Philissa at GothamSchools spotted the Times-Pic story.

~Guest blogger Elizabeth Green

6 Replies to “All the New Young White Teachers (And School Board Members)”

  1. It’s interesting that you brought this to attention – especially through your perspective. As someone living in New Orleans and working in the state-controlled Recovery School District (RSD), I am very curious about how this board will handle schools such as the one I’m working in now. With the two-year contract of the current superintendent – the notorious and politically aspiring Paul Vallas
    – coming to an end and the guy who was supposed to take his place going on to take over the schools in St. Louis,
    the school board may be poised to take back control of some, or all the RSD schools by the 2009-2010 school year. Many of the paler board members are less friendly to the idea of taking over ALL the RSD schools.

    Some background before I go on: the school board only has direct control of 5 schools (the ones that were not deemed persistently failing before the storm) and loosely oversees a bunch of charters, too. The RSD runs 34 schools and oversees 33 charters. Many of the school board’s schools selectively admit students and contain populations that are more ethnically and socio-economically diverse that the RSD schools’ which are almost exclusively high-poverty and African-American.

    Many of the new members of the board don’t mind taking back the RSD charters, but are wary about taking back the traditional public schools. Without providing details, one member, Seth Bloom, proposed allowing the state-run schools to become Orleans Parish School Board schools one-by-one once they reach a certain level of success. Another, Woody Koppel, proposed chartering the schools that return to the school board in phases.

    These solutions leave me slightly uneasy because they have the potential to perpetuate separate but vastly unequal school systems for an undetermined amount of time. While the state and local school board play hot potato with schools like mine (open-enrollment, less-than-stellar test scores), the kids and their teachers get a raw deal.

  2. I thin less attention should be paid to the race of school board members and teachers and more to what they stand for and what they contribute to education. To reference your previous post, I assume the school board in Zimbabwe is all black. What does that do for the kids when the school year is canceled?

  3. A more valid point couldn’t be made, Mr. Wolf.

    I always try to steer clear of talking about race as something that quantifiably matters. Nevertheless, it’s inevitably the first thing that is pointed out about the newly elected school board. To me, what interests me more about the newly elected members are that 1) they did not attend New Orleans public schools and 2) their children do not attend New Orleans public schools. This is neither good nor bad, but it’s definitely a first in my recent memory.

    This election probably reflects New Orleanians’ lack of faith in the ability of those within the institution to fix the institution. We’re not alone, that’s the trend all over the U.S. So, now we have a lot of outsiders, lawyers and such, trying their hand at educational reform. I want it to work. But, as someone from within the institution, the constant votes of no confidence start to sting.

  4. Fixing the institution assumes that it can be fixed and that it is broken. The reformers of all stripes tend to want to know this empiricallly- by arbitrary testing, standards and government. There is no objectivity in this regard nor can there be when dealing with humans.

    But we do know stuff about the government aprioristically.

    The idea of public school being the appropriate means to educate children in the optimal manner befitting a free society is where the problem lies. It is the free society that allows for the best progress in education, not the other way around! This is true from every point of view except from the perspective of despotic control. Reforming public school is analogous to reforming slavery and just as confused. True reform would be the same for both: abolition.

  5. In response to Angelique, I want to make sure she knows that Woody Koppel spent the majority of his pre-college schooling in Orleans Parish Public Schools and then taught in the Orleans Parish Public Schools for 7 years. I think he will be sympathetic to the plight of teachers but also has some much-needed outside perspective to bring to the board.

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