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Disappearing acts: The decline of black teachers

by Brandon Johnson, CTU Organizer  |  01/31/2013

As long as I can remember, there has been a perennial plea for black people to enter the teaching profession, and many of us enthusiastically headed this righteous call.

However, as the nation's population and students have grown more diverse, the teaching force has done the opposite — it's grown more white and less diverse; the growing shortage of black teachers, especially black men is an issue in the nation's schools.

Although many stakeholders of public education agree that our elementary and secondary teaching force "should look like America," recent policy has ignored conventional wisdom and has led to the greatest involuntary exodus of blacks from the teaching profession.

In 2000, 52 percent of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and 41 percent of CPS teachers were black. Today, 43 percent of students and just 25 percent of teachers are black.

"Stand up to the Fat Cats" tells the story of outsider billionaires wreaking havoc on Chicago's schools. 

Black teachers are more likely to work in high-poverty schools with high percentages of black students. In other words, the data indicates that black teachers are employed at higher rates in schools serving students with severe challenges, augmented by their living conditions. These same schools tend to be less desirable workplaces and are disrupted by a revolving door of administrators, plagued by relentless testing and are void of teacher autonomy over curriculum and are more likely to be closed or "turned-round."

Last year, The Chicago Board of Education moved on school action plans that not only further destabilized black communities but disproportionately led to the involuntarily departure of black educators.

More than 250 black teachers were impacted by the board's decisions. My new role with the Chicago Teachers Union provided me a front-row seat on how devastating these policies are to black teachers.

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