Oh, Woe! No “Teachers of Color”!

Buffalo and Rochester Try to Diversify Their Teaching Force

Time and again, year after year, month after month, reporters and opinion writers uncritically repeat these tales of woe: Oh no! We have no teachers of color!

The reasons are always uncertain or, as in this new story, not even offered. Mention of the unending, unceasing efforts to diversify will be made. But rarely do these stories ever even tiptoe towards truthful.

At best the story might barely hint that the lack might involve the challenging (to some) credential tests.

In every standardized test of knowledge known to humankind, blacks and Hispanics score, on average, lower than whites and Asians. But state after state boosts its teaching credential cut score, convinced that they must raise teacher quality.

And then, oh woe! We have no teachers of color!!

Yes, it’s a mystery. Say, for example, a catastrophic flood closes a city down, and the city takes the opportunity to fire 7,000 teachers (about 5,000 were black). Because hey, what an opportunity! Don’t let that disaster go to waste. While education reformers and politicians celebrate the new, better, and oh so very much whiter teachers in their new, improved, city, the matched test scores show no improvement (green line) and while the post-flood scores of a different, not nearly as poor, population are improved, the district is still extremely low scoring. And 5,000 teachers, give or take–about 1% of the black teaching population–are out of work.

But oh woe! We have no teachers of color!

The stories don’t even provide the happy news. Did you know that 14.3% of the 954,000 education administrators are black? Black principals and other various boss folks outnumber black high school teachers (8% of 1.08 million). There are roughly the same number of Hispanic administrators as high school academic teachers. (BLS Stats).

Clearly, many black and Hispanic teachers prefer more money and better pensions in the world of “education administrators of color”, which represent 25% of the whole. Just 75% of education administrators are white.

And still oh woe! We have no teachers of color.

Education reporters and analysts either don’t know or don’t want to talk about the link between the scarcity of non-white teachers and states’ persistent raising of the minimumm qualifying score for teacher credential tests. Difficult to say, in so many words, that higher required test scores lead unequivocally to lower black and Hispanic pass rates. So they’ll write puzzled stories about the decline, hint darkly at racism, and ignore or underreport test cheating rings run by black principals in order to get black teachers passing credential scores.

They either don’t know or don’t want to talk about the fact that black and Hispanic principals and administrators have better represenationi. See, ed schools can’t use affirmative action to enroll teaching candidates. Districts, on the other hand, can use affirmative action to hire and promote principals. But affirmative action is so….controversial. Who wants to acknowledge that schools are hiring administrators with a diversity quota?

Is it churlish to point out that the stories themselves are applying a diversity quota? And finding the results wanting? I guess so. Also misguided, I suppose, to observe that children of color see principals of color in management positions, usually having authority over a gaggle of white teachers. Doesn’t that send a positive message? (In case it’s not clear, I do not object to school districts using race as a factor in administrator selection.

Thus we see, literally, thousands of articles bewailing the “missing minority teacher”. And none of them really say why.

They will often say, accurately, that research shows black children, in particular, seem to benefit from black teachers.

Occasionally, they’ll mention the many charter schools that hire young, usually white, two year resume boosters as they take students taught by long-term, experienced, black and Hispanic teachers. Or, taking the opposite tack, will hint that the mostly white teaching population is somehow related to those nefarious unions.

They’ll talk about the fact that white teachers rate black students’ ability lower than black teachers, without mentioning that the research didn’t reveal which teachers were more accurate in their ratings.

They may hint, around the edges, about the credential test issue. Rarely, they’ll mention there’s little if any correlation, much less causation, between teacher ability and student outcomes. I don’t think it’s occurred to anyone but me that administrative hiring decreases the blacks and Hispanics in the teaching pool.

They’re probably right to avoid stating the reality bluntly. I try it occasionally, and the results aren’t pretty.

Everyone thinks “we need to lower the credential cut score so we can have more black and Hispanic teachers” means “blacks and Hispanics aren’t smart enough to pass a test”. Hand to god, I don’t think that. I don’t care why the scores are lower. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that consistent, reliable data on teacher inputs related to student outputs shows that states set their teacher credential cut scores set too high. They are leaving out teachers who could get good jobs and help kids.

We don’t just have a “teachers of color” shortage these days. We have an honest to god all teachers of every color shortage, in nearly every state. And every day, some education reformer or worse, a politician, will bleat idiocy about raising teacher quality, while every other day, some social justice warrior will wail about the missing black and Hispanic teachers who could be helping kids at risk. Suggest a solution and the reformers will scream at you for lowering standards while the progressives will shriek “Racist!”

And like bad pennies, the stories keep turning up. Today, missing teachers of color. Tomorrow, another state wants to raise cut scores for teacher credential tests and the horrific National Council on Teacher Quality nods its collective head.

Woe, oh woe.

About educationrealist

47 responses to “Oh, Woe! No “Teachers of Color”!

  • anonymousskimmer

    “Also misguided, I suppose, to observe that children of color see principals of color in management positions, usually having authority over a gaggle of white teachers. Doesn’t that send a positive message?”

    Does it send a positive message? Outside of the lone principal and a vp or two, do the students even notice administrators or guess at their authority? And if they do, does it genuinely send a positive message to those who do notice?

    “I don’t think it’s occurred to anyone but me that administrative hiring decreases the blacks and Hispanics in the teaching pool.”

    What proportion (estimated) of admins have a teaching credential (even if expired) which would allow them to teach a class or two if their admin job was part time? I’m thinking of the college tendency to make lower-level admin positions (eg. department chair) faculty jobs.

    “National Council on Teacher Quality”

    The name, and duties of this council should be changed to “National Council on Student Outcomes”. Too many people, when appointed to a position with a particular description, never stop to question whether the stated purpose of the position is a) fundamentally important, and b) might be subject to overzealous implementation.

    • educationrealist

      ” do the students even notice administrators or guess at their authority?”

      Um. Is this sarcasm?

      • anonymousskimmer

        I try my absolute best not to use sarcasm, and am fully fine if someone takes my sarcasm seriously, in the rare event it pops out.

        No, this is not sarcasm. The only time I paid attention to anyone other than a teacher, principal or VP was when my dad was on the school board.

      • anonymousskimmer

        Just realized I misread “principals of color in management positions”, as “administrators of color in management positions”.

      • Jim

        At almost all the schools I attended growing up I didn’t know the name of the principal of the school or have been able to recognize him (or her) if I had walked past them.

      • anonymousskimmer

        Have things changed? This is a claim which can be empirically verified, and probably should be given the known impact of minority teachers on minority student achievement versus the unknown impact of minority educational managers on minority student achievement, and the incentives encouraging minorities to aim for the managerial jobs instead of the teaching jobs.

        IF the students notice both the presence of their minority in a managerial position, and recognize the position as a more “important” position than teacher, you are likely correct for the majority of students (given what few polls and an anecdote I could find on the analogous blacks/women as corporate executives).

        But a claim could also be made that having a black teacher who is daily, immediately in a position of authority over the student might be more inspirational. Anecdotes abound about those who were inspired by teachers or coaches. There are far fewer anecdotes about those who were inspired by principals or superintendents, even among those few who were inspired to become a part of the educational system.

  • Roger Sweeny

    We don’t just have a “teachers of color” shortage these days. We have an honest to god all teachers of every color shortage, in nearly every state.

    Not here in Massachusetts. Many, many colleges and universities combined with a slowly growing school-age population means we have a big teacher surplus. In a school where I worked a few years ago, the history department head got 300 applications for an open position.

  • Calvin X Hobbes

    I wonder whether it was true maybe 60 or 70 years ago that blacks in school did better with black teachers than with white teachers. I have the feeling that a lot more black kids these days don’t want to follow orders or show respect to a white person.

    I also have the feeling that having a really smart teacher makes a difference for really smart kids, even if it doesn’t for average kids. I’m not that dumb, but one of my kids has an IQ about 40 points above mine. School was a waste of time for him whenever his teachers weren’t really smart.

    • educationrealist

      That may be true, I dunno. 60 or 70 years ago, relatively few black kids had white teachers.

    • Momof4

      I agree with your last para. A close relative taught only honors/AP classes, filled with very bright kids, for many years. Several times, he accepted a student teacher and all were disasters. The student teachers were all from a nearby non-competitive college and were not on the same ability level as the kids, who would attend highly-competitive colleges.

    • anonymousskimmer


      The best manager/teacher/leader for anyone is someone who is very much like them (or possibly someone who is very much complementary to them, I’m not sure).

      But it would take a god to organize society along these lines. (end smiley face)

      Skin color and smarts are crude metrics, though they’re better than nothing.

      • Ricky

        “The best manager/teacher/leader for anyone is someone who is very much like them (or possibly someone who is very much complementary to them, I’m not sure).”


      • anonymousskimmer


        Hasn’t been empirically tested that I know of, sorry.

  • Ciro

    I think your interpretation of the Nola graph is off. It shows that non Nola hurricane cities did not improve. Nola improved but as you say I am not sure they are controlling for income differences before and after.

    If teacher capability does not affect student outcomes shouldn’t we eliminate all licensure and degree requirements, cut starting salaries 50 pct, and call it a day? And heck why not increas enclass sizes and put more kids on the machine. Seems like that is what you are ultimately arguing.

    • educationrealist

      Don’t think that’s true, about NOLA. The report sez as much, unless I misread.

      ‘shouldn’t we eliminate all licensure and degree requirements, cut starting salaries 50 pct, and call it a day? ”

      Remember the part about supply problems? Cutting salary isn’t usually a good idea.

      Besides, you confuse capacity with intelligence.

      • Ciro

        But ur argument is that teaching is essentiallly an unskilled profession – capability isn’t driving outcomes. So the supply problem is regulatory driven. There are tons of literate non skilled workers who would love to be in teaching. Let’s loosen the reqs fully. Let the flood gates open. Your argument is that nothing bad will happen as it relates to outcomes.

      • educationrealist

        Do you not know how to spell your, or don’t realize you aren’t on Twitter?

        “ur argument is that teaching is essentiallly an unskilled profession”

        No, it’s not.

      • Roger Sweeny

        Ed, perhaps you should spell out what skills you think are required to be a good teacher (or if you think it doesn’t make much difference above some level, what you think is required to be a “good enough”–adequate?–teacher).

    • Roger Sweeny

      The green line on the graph is marked “matched comparison” and goes to 2012. The “Notes” under the graph says, “Separate analyses show that New Orleans students returning after the storm, who could be studied only through 2009, also made gains relative to their own prior performance, but these differences were often not statistically significant.”

      This leads me to believe that the green line is some sort of massaged version of the blue line, in which they’ve tried to “control for” the fact that the makeup of New Orleans students is now different than it was before Katrina. With the implication that if the makeup were the same, there would be no improvement in “Scale est scores” (“Scale scores are averaged across grades 3 through 8 and English Language Arts, math, science, and social studies. Scale scores are standardized so that zero refers to the statewide average.”).

      Since I don’t know how they “matched,” I don’t know how legitimate the massaging is.

  • Ciro

    I don’t think u responded in a way that moves us forward so let’s not continue w the dialog.

    • Roger Sweeny

      No, don’t go. I suspect Ed thought your comment didn’t really “move us forward” (it was kind of flippant) but we can get past that.

      A personal problem I have is that I hate it when people tell me what I think or what my argument is–and get it wrong. Now, that’s often because I haven’t been clear enough but it’s still nice to hear, “you seem to be saying …” or “am I right that you are saying …?” or even “are you really saying … cause that would be crazy?”

      • ciro curbelo

        Fair point, RSweeny.

        Realist said – “there’s little if any correlation, much less causation, between teacher ability and student outcomes”.

        If that were true, then the larger point isn’t about subgroups pass rates. It is about why even have any selection criteria (other than criminal history). And if it were true, it would seem like we are sitting on an opportunity to cut labor cost, without hurting outcomes.

        I don’t believe it is true at all. I just don’t think you can measure capability econometrically (at least govt statistics can’t do this). Capability is a function of some easily measured things (e.g., SAT, GRE scores) but also a function of more hard to measure things (e.g., work ethic, ability to design instruction that can deliver lasting understanding, ability to deliver instruction in a way that engages students, ability to earn the respect and admiration of your students; placement in a context that lets you do good work, e.g., having a good instructional leader who at minimum lets you do your thing or even better helps you up your game).

        I’d guess that good SAT/GRE scores are necessary (but not nearly sufficient) for Middle/high school and that lower (but not low) scores are fine (but again not nearly sufficient) for elementary. The hard to measure intangibles matter…a lot. I would not put my kid in front of a teacher who does not have them, no matter how good their SAT/GRE is.

        Thanks RSweeny.


      • educationrealist

        First, I was talking specifically about test scores on both student and teacher there.

        Second, do you believe that teacher ability defined in any way you like can turn a low IQ into a high one? Do you believe that a high IQ teacher will have better results with low ability students than a teacher of merely above average IQ?

        I would think it obvious that anyone who devotes a considerable portion of writing time to discussing the best ways to engage students and present material in an accessible way thinks teaching matters.

        Nor am I overly impressed with someone who can’t see that what we have now is a *good* outcome, and that dropping the pay and taking any non-criminal warm body would make things much worse. The reason we don’t have *more* kids on the street, ignoring school, is because we pretty much cull out the total mediocrities.

  • anonymousskimmer

    Yo ER,

    My CA state Rep (who is a Republican) just emailed asking for constituent input on improving California schools.

    Regardless of our differences of opinions on various matters I tend to think your ideas on the schools are generally sound.

    Would you be willing to list any blog posts you think are *most* pertinent to this issue so I can send them on? (Including the posts were you take reformers to task) Given the givens a synopsis post or a post with bullet points that I can pull out would be nice.


    “The Governor’s budget proposal raises education funding to nearly $11,000 per student, which is good. But it does lack the reforms we need to improve our schools. Our local schools need to be able to save for a rainy day, and the cap on school district reserves prevents that from happening.

    All students deserve a quality education, my colleagues and I are listening for ideas to reach that goal. Email me your thoughts about what improvements or changes you would like to see in California schools, or share them with me on social media. Your input is valuable to me!”

    • educationrealist

      Thanks for asking. I will try to synopsize this but as you know I’m a slow writer, so in the meantime, here’s something:

      Five Education Policy Proposals, with attention to proposals 1, 2, and 5. Colleges are forced to accept remedial students, but high schools aren’t allowed to teach remedial subjects. As I understand it, CA just required a baseline placement test for high school kids to get algebra placement. If so, this would be a great time to allow students to take lower level courses. And preventing UCs and CSUs from accepting remedial students would be a big win. It might get Asian backing, too, as it would make it possible to get through a CSU in fewer than 6 years.

      While schools can’t change ELL mandates, schools could change how they are categorized. If a student considers English his or her main language, then he or she should not be categorized as ELL, full stop.

      Those are three huge statewide issues that would be worthy of attention. I’d start there.

      • anonymousskimmer

        Thanks ER. My rep’s email form had a 2000 character limit (I had to cut out over half of the original draft). Here’s what I sent (1997 characters 🙂

        I follow the blog of an anonymous Trump-voting, Republican, Title I High School teacher in our state called “Education Realist” (ER) who genuinely cares for the success of all students, and who has some policy ideas which I support. Three of these ideas are:

        1) Ban College-level remediation and 2) Stop kneecapping High Schools
        – Evidence shows that HS graduates who are forced into remediation in college tend to worse outcomes than similar students who are not.

        Allowing HS students to take remedial courses in high school would prepare them better for college than passing them on with a barely acceptable grade. Banning college remediation would shrink the avg uni graduation time. It would allow use of remedial funds to make community adult education classes easier to access, so that HS grads can get more supportive, cheaper remediation close to home. They should then have a better chance in college.

        ER adds: “CA just required a baseline placement test for high school kids to get algebra placement. If so, this would be a great time to allow students to take lower level courses.”

        3) Appropriately categorize English Language Learners
        – As a liberal this made me uncomfortable, but is worth considering.

        Classifying students as ELL cannot be used as a dumping ground for students who have other educational impediments. There are genuine ELL students and students who simply aren’t literate in their native language. These students need different things. It sets up some of the less literate students to fail by giving them a goal post they can’t hit. It forces teachers to waste time trying to figure out and fulfill mandates which are instructionally wrong.

        ER says: “Ending ELL classification wouldn’t end the support that schools give long-term English Language learners. We’d just…pronounce it differently.”


        Every child needs to have their genuine needs met.

  • rw95


    Considering the fact that disparity gaps continue to exist among Hispanic and black populations, should we simply stop sending Negroes and Hispanics to school altogether? What’s the point in attempting to teach a demographic that is simply incapable of learning?

    • educationrealist

      I’m not even sure I should have authorized this comment. It’s pretty amazingly stupid.

      • NewarkTFA

        My first reaction is that rw95 is just trolling you from the left; unfortunately, some people really are this thoroughly racist.

      • Roger Sweeny

        If rw95 is “this thoroughly racist,” he deserves to be enlightened. It’s averages, distributions. There is no essence.

        If rw95 is “trolling … from the left,” he also deserves to be enlightened. It’s averages, distributions. There is no essence.

    • Roger Sweeny

      1. Almost everyone in those demographics is capable of learning something. People should be taught a) what they can learn, and b) what is useful for them to learn. That would take an awful lot out from lots of schooling but put a good deal of different stuff in.

      2. The “gap” is a difference between averages. I’ve had brilliant black physics students. It makes sense not to force every 11th grader to take high-powered physics but it makes absolutely no sense to say, “all members of this or that group cannot take Honors Physics.”

      It cannot be said often enough, “There is no essence of blackness or essence of hispanicness, something that all blacks or hispanics have that non-blacks or non-hispanics don’t have. There are group averages. Period.

  • Vijay

    What has been alluded before in this blog, but not mentioned here in this edition, is: “Black and Hispanic achievers who can attain the scores required for credential tests can easily choose professions and degrees that can position them higher, economically speaking, than teaching”.

    And this answer pertains to Roger Sweeney’s point 2, which, unfortunately is incorrect. The “gap” is a difference in distributions, not only averages. Every profession, credentials based on cutoff in scores which work on distributions of scores for each race, has this issue. The right end of distributions in the two above races are in great demand.

    Before this comment is consigned to the dustbin of racism, I want to assure that these issues have a much larger impact in rural and rustbelt USA, even for the majority. For a large part of the past, jobs were available for a broader range of distributions in the factory and the farm. The elites have wiped out these jobs via automation, trade, and (dare I say) immigration, such that large parts of the majority population have been stranded in mid-America. At the present day, shop floor jobs are seeking even more of the right side of the distribution than teaching, and sucking up Hispanic and Black people in preference to teaching.

    Overlapping normal (or quasi-normal) distributions and cutoff scores, is now increasingly a dangerous occupation.

    • Roger Sweeny

      I completely agree that “The ‘gap’ is a difference in distributions, not only averages.” If the distribution of IQ is a bell curve, there will be a lot of people in the middle, with fewer as you get toward the “tails.” So a lot of regularly smart people, with fewer very smart people and even fewer really smart people (similarly on the not very smart side). Graph the number of people with a particular IQ score and you get a curve that starts low at low scores, soars to a maximum at a medium score, and descends to very few as you get into the range of people who read this blog 🙂

      Which means that if one group’s curve has a higher average than another’s, the whole curve will be higher. But a little bit higher curve means a lot more people in the “right hand tail”–the “very smart people.” If, say, admission to a profession is based on IQ (directly or indirectly), there will be a gap. The high IQ group will be considerably “over-represented” compared to its proportion of the population.

    • Roger Sweeny

      Let me add: I think ER is saying that admission to teaching should not depend on being far out to the right on the IQ distribution. Above a certain point, teaching EFFECTIVENESS does not increase with IQ at all. Requiring all teachers to be far out on the right will freeze out lots of blacks and hispanics without increasing the quality of the teaching force.

      But then, I think, ER and I are both unusual in that we judge educational systems by outputs, not inputs. To me, what matters is “what useful things have students learned?” what useful things can students do?”

      But to so many people who talk about education–or work in the business–what matters is “how much money is spent?” “how many years are students in school?” “how many degrees and certificates do teachers have?” “what cool things do teachers do?” “how smart are teachers?”

      • anonymousskimmer

        “we judge educational systems by outputs”

        Ideally all systems would be judged by opportunity costs versus opportunity earnings. But this is at least as difficult compared to judging by outputs as outputs are to inputs.

        “Above a certain point, teaching EFFECTIVENESS does not increase with IQ at all.”

        Are there any testable abilities, personality traits, etc… which have demonstrated correlation (or anti-correlation) with teaching effectiveness on an output or opportunity cost basis?

      • educationrealist

        This was all a great discussion, and I really thought it was more valuable than my rude put-down. I am mildly peeved that you two are so patient. And of course, this is coming back again with the talk of the NY test, which I need to write about but I’m just really tired lately.

    • Roger Sweeny

      Being a good teacher can be exhausting. I used to be so dead Friday night that I would sit on the couch and watch professional wrestling.

      Yeah, I realize I’m assuming something.

  • Vijay

    At the risk of sounding like a douchebag, I fear that “Oh woe! no teachers of color” is equivalent to writing “oh woe! rust belt and south have no more manufacturing jobs!” or “oh woe! Ny magnet schools have no minorities or even many white children”, considering that ER has walked it back a lot. It is a woe, just not clear how important it is in the scheme of things. Personally, it will not matter to me if all schools had 95% white women as teachers, as it is unclear what the impact of teacher race on anything is.

    • NewarkTFA

      Ed is mocking the people whose policies have reduced the number of teachers of color for then turning around and bemoaning their absence. Also, ed has mentioned more than once that there is evidence of teachers of color being more effective with students of color than white teachers are even though the white teachers have higher standardized test scores.

    • educationrealist

      As NewarkTFA mentions, I am mocking the reporters and educational experts everywhere who create the policies that create the absence. And yes, I have said many times, including here, I think that race seems to matter more than teacher IQ.

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