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December 2015

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New York City Public Schools, among the largest school districts in the U.S., is in critical need of teachers and staff who reflect the diversity of families and students who attend its schools. However, the city’s diversity is not novel. A complete overhaul of staff will not solve the greater issues and concerns that plague our nation’s schools either. New York City’s  Teachers and other school based staff, including administrators, and throughout the U.S., need Professional Development[PD]training opportunities[mandatory, continuous, on-going] to address the problems facing them and students who attend  pk-12 schools.

PD  workshop opportunities are desperately needed in areas related to diversity to challenge, confront and neutralize the effects of implicit bias……. They need  cultural competence, cultural competence, and more cultural competence.

We should recruit teachers from a more diverse pool of qualified and well trained prospects. However, hiring more teachers of color, Black and Hispanic, is not a panacea and won’t cure the large numbers of problems in education or our schools simply because they are more representative of the students themselves. It won’t rid problems like:

  • discipline disparities
  • achievement gap
  • STEM  and AP enrollment gaps
  • G &T under-representation
  • Special Education referrals
  • family engagement/involvement
  • digital divide
  • school climate/culture
  • exclusive not inclusive texts
  • bullying and harassment
  • resource and funding gaps
  • school violence… to name a few.

Why not? Before that question is answered, I ask: what will happen to the existing teaching staff who are not ‘of color’ or male? Are we opening new schools to accommodate the next influx of teachers? Are classroom sizes in existing schools going to be reduced? Are teachers going to double up in class, as co-teachers?  Does this search seek to hire other staff and school leaders like Principals, Deans, Counselors, or Parent Coordinators?

We must address the greatest determinant that impacts student outcomes and the learning experiences in school. The problems that we face as evident in schools, are not limited to schools alone. They reflect a societal mindset; one that is riddled with implicit bias. We must just everybody ‘man/woman up’ and begin THE most important and life changing discussion in America. That dialogue will need to center on that dirty little four letter word-RACE.

Every aspect of society is influenced by racism, prejudice, implicit bias, stereotypes, and are all by-products. But, instead of addressing the disease, we tend to feel comfort in throwing a Band-Aid over the sores and symptoms. Hiring new teachers is great, but we need to also throw some money[taxpayer dollars] where it will do most good right now, with what we have[unless the ‘old guard’ are going to be fired]. Until teachers are  better prepared to interact with the diversity that exists in our classrooms, any new hiring still won’t cure the disease or change the ‘deficit model’ theoretical framework.

It’s all about cultural competence, communication, and curriculum development!

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