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Community Voices: Black teachers alliance calls for diversity in BPS

Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts

The diversity of the city of Boston and of the students served by the Boston Public Schools is not reflected in the teachers serving in the schools.  

More than half the residents of Boston are people of color, and students of color make up 87 percent of the student population in Boston Public Schools. In contrast, 38 percent of Boston Public Schools (BPS) teachers are teachers of color.

Federal court desegregation orders mandate that Boston Public Schools maintain a minimum of 25 percent black teachers and 10 percent “other minority” teachers.  In the 2012-2013 school year, BPS has 22.1 percent black teachers and 16 percent “other minority” teachers.  

The percentage of black teachers actually declined since the 2011-2012 school year and in each of the previous four years.

The low teacher diversity in BPS is due to problems in recruitment, hiring, staffing, retention and monitoring. The school district has not invested in the staff and resources needed to generate an adequate pool of external candidates of color for vacant teacher positions or to build a robust internal pipeline of staff and students for teaching careers.

BPS has not set clear, firm hiring goals for vacant teaching positions and has not held accountable or rewarded school and central administrators for meeting diversity goals.  

The district has too many schools with low or no diversity and some exam schools that do not meet the court-ordered mandate for 25 percent black teachers. BPS has not taken effective action to reduce the disproportionate attrition of black teachers, nor has it maintained the level of monitoring and reporting that ensured that the district achieved compliance with the federal desegregation orders in the past. The Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts (BEAM) believes that BPS has been in noncompliance with teacher desegregation orders for too long, and that it is urgent and imperative that the district improve teacher diversity as a strategy for reducing the persistent achievement gaps.  

BEAM recommends the following immediate steps:

  1. Restore adequate staffing and budget to recruitment such that larger numbers of external candidates of color can be attracted to BPS.
  2. Provide the sustained funding needed to develop a pipeline of licensed paraprofessionals and substitute teachers for teaching positions; revive the TeachBoston program to prepare students for teaching careers.
  3. Set a clear, firm goal for the 2013-2014 school year of full compliance with the 25 percent minimum mandate for black teachers and for substantially improving the representation of Latino teachers; prepare action plans for achieving these goals.
  4. Ensure the retention of new teachers of color by providing Letters of Reasonable Assurance to all provisional teachers of color with satisfactory performance.
  5. Ensure the early hiring of new teachers of color by providing Letters of Commitment to high potential candidates.
  6. Revise the hiring process to ensure that low or no diversity schools improve their diversity and that all three exam schools achieve their 25 percent mandate for black teachers.
  7. Analyze the reasons for disproportionate attrition of black teachers and develop initiatives to reduce the attrition rate; implement an exit interview/survey process for teachers.
  8. Make diversity monitoring and reporting the shared responsibility of the Offices of Equity and of Human Resources; restore the proven effective oversight role to the Office of Equity that ensured compliance with court-ordered teacher staffing mandates for over two decades.