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How Black Teachers Lost When Civil Rights Won in Brown v. Board

<Ƶ class="subtitle">The ranks of Black teachers have been decimated since public schools were ordered desegregated in 1954.
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

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, the Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools, stands in the collective national memory as a turning point in America’s fight for racial justice. But as the U.S. observes its 70th anniversary, Brown also represents something more somber: It ultimately led to thousands of Black teachers losing their jobs.

Before Brown, Black teachers . Today, of America’s public K-12 teachers, even as Black children of public school students.

As researchers focused on , , and , we believe this is an important piece of unfinished business for a country still reckoning with . In our view, the best way to fulfill Brown’s promise and confront the is to hire more teachers of color.

How Black teachers’ ranks rose and fell

Before Brown, Black children often were excluded from public schools or forced into . Rather than accept these conditions, many Black communities to build private schools of their own, buy curricular materials and hire Black teachers.

Conditions were vastly unequal to those for white children at the time, but the presence of Black teachers with deep value and care.

Prior to 1954, there in the United States. A decade later, with hundreds of segregated schools closing, more than had been fired by white school leaders. As the community-run schools for Black children disappeared following the end of legalized segregation, so too did the Black educators who staffed them.

Brown had mandated integration for students but said nothing of their educators.

The importance of Black teachers

In the decades since, parents, social justice advocates and researchers have documented the importance of teachers of color and pleaded for teacher workforce diversity. They support student learning and social and emotional development of children of color in ways that lead to better outcomes.

One study found the presence of Black math teachers that Black students enroll in rigorous math classes. Another found that Black students taught by at least one Black teacher from kindergarten through third grade were 13% more likely to graduate from high school and 19% than same-race peers who did not have a Black teacher.

Still, the teacher workforce remains stubbornly white-dominated. Why? problematic certification measures, adverse working conditions and discriminatory hiring practices contribute to keeping Black people from becoming teachers or keeping their teaching positions.

Certification exams are barriers to entry

Obtaining a professional license is a critical milestone in a teacher’s career. Yet licensure policies and exams long have , similar to race-based policies such as that once prevented Black people from voting in the segregated South.

By several measures, standardized tests to be biased against people of color. they contain culturally biased questions .

What’s more, prevent the entry of Black people into teaching and determine which teachers are retained. As a result, from 1984 to 1989, , according to one study of the impact of reliance on licensure exams and policies.

This gatekeeping function is especially troublesome because other studies show exam results are . In one study, Black teachers in North Carolina with low exam scores on Black student achievement.

Difficult work conditions lead to turnover

Black teachers have the highest rate of among , both white and nonwhite. When asked to on their careers, longtime Black teachers they face constant from fellow teachers, non-Black parents and district personnel.

Black male teachers in particular say their expertise and that they are forced to play disciplinarian for Black boys. Other studies show Black teachers are into schools with fewer resources, chronic turnover and leadership instability.

Last-in-first-out hiring policies . Layoffs of this nature the students most often taught by beginning teachers and teachers of color.

All of this for Black educators.

Discriminatory hiring practices

practices have made this cycle, and they can break it, too.

One study receive fewer job offers than white candidates. When hired, Black teachers to be selected by principals of color, and they, too, are a of school leaders.

Principals say they seek teachers who best fit their school culture. Yet research shows that rely on subjective traits and personal attributes, and often this means .

The nation faces a , but there is no shortage of potential teachers of color. Seven decades after Brown, it is a lack of that is missing.The Conversation

This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license. Read the .

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