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Our View: Improving teacher diversity critical for Carroll County Public Schools

When officials from Carroll County Public Schools discuss diversity in hiring, as they did at the most recent Board of Education meeting, there might be a tendency by some to dismiss such talk as political correctness. If so, that’s a shame, because hiring and retaining a staff that’s reflective of the student body is critical for the educational success of all students, particularly minorities.

Research bears out that teachers tend to see students of different races as having more behavioral issues and less potential for academic success than same-race students.

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· A 2016 study appearing in Early Childhood Research Quarterly showed that children are perceived as being better adjusted at the beginning of pre-kindergarten when rated by a same-race teacher than by a different-race teacher, and that children demonstrate greater gains during the pre-k year when in the classroom of a same-race teacher.

· A 2017 study appearing in The Elementary School Journal showed that students of color are significantly underrepresented in gifted programs relative to their white peers.

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· A 2013 study appearing in Social Science research showed that black children receive worse assessments of their externalizing behaviors —such as arguing in class and disrupting instruction — when they have a white teacher than when they have a black teacher.

· A 2017 study appearing in the Institute for Labor Economics showed that if a black male student has at least one black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grade, he is significantly less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to aspire to attend a four-year college.

Having enough minority teachers is a national problem and has been since some 30,000 black teachers lost their jobs in the aftermath of integration that followed the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that forced white school systems to accept students of color but not educators. While efforts are ongoing to increase minority staffing everywhere, including in Carroll, the numbers remain particularly low here.

Officials statistics aren’t expected until February, but according to preliminary numbers provided to the Times by Carroll County Public Schools last week, the school system employs 2,013 teachers. Of those, more than 96% are white. Meanwhile, the student population is becoming more diverse each year.

According to CCPS, 7% of students are Hispanic, 4% are African-American, 4% are bi-racial, and 3% are Asian. Some of those students will go through their entire scholastic careers in Carroll without having a class with a teacher that looks like them.

Obviously, that’s not to say that a student of color won’t benefit from the many talented white teachers in CCPS — and white students will benefit from having minority teachers as well — but there’s just too much evidence showing that white teachers are more likely to “see themselves” in students of the same race. Thus, they will more often give a break to a same-race student, whether that be in terms of discipline or a nomination for the Gifted & Talented program.

CCPS has set a goal to increase minority staff percentage to 5% in the next school year and 6% by 2022-23. The system is reaching out to organizations like the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities and HBCU Connect while using testimonials from success stories like Winters Mill Principal Michael Brown and Supervisor of Physical Education and Health Jim Rodriguez in recruitment efforts. Meanwhile, Judith Jones, Equity and Inclusion officer, said her office is focused on retaining educators and staff of color once they become part of CCPS.

Chantress Baptist, director of Human Resources for CCPS, conceded during the meeting that staffing diversity remains one of the school system’s most significant challenges. “However," she said, "I also believe, one day it will be one of our greatest triumphs.”

It could be. And it needs to be — for today’s students and for those students who haven’t yet been born.

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