LAUSD’s independent analysis unit recently conducted an exploration into the state of Black educators within the district, a report of which was published as part of the “Black Student Excellence through Educator Diversity, Preparation and Retention” resolution passed in February. It is intended to inform the district’s plan for support of Black educators and students.
The numbers aren’t all bad. The percentage of black teachers in LAUSD closely mirrors the percentage of Black students in the district and of Black Angelenos overall, approximately 9% of the population. The ratio is even more promising when it comes to administrators, with approximately 20% of school leaders identifying as Black. The study shows that more than 90% of LAUSD students attend school with at least one black educator. At first glance, this may not appear problematic.
The problem comes when we realize how very important black educators are in the lives of black students and how few students actually get to have a black teacher, especially during the formative elementary school years. In fact, the study identified 183 LAUSD elementary schools where Black students are enrolled that have no Black educators on staff. The importance of that representation and that early affinity cannot be overstated. Former LAUSD parent, Alberta Brinson Moore recently spoke of the transformational experiences her Black children were able to have in elementary school when they were fortunate enough to have a Black teacher.
“Having that Black teacher recognize that there was a brilliant mind waiting to come out and saying, ’Let’s find a way for him to be his best,’ was definitely a pivotal positive experience for my son.”
The report also finds that the number of Black educators is decreasing, which means LAUSD must focus on providing more support to its current educators as well as focus on recruitment efforts, especially in the early grades where students are first forming their own identities and need to see examples of what they can do and be. One recommendation might be to recruit more heavily in schools that have only one or two Black teachers currently, allowing teachers to find a cohort that feels safe and comfortable within the workplace. Another idea is to center conversations on race, power, and privilege in all conversations on educator preparation so that teachers of color can reasonably anticipate that they will be seen and heard in their future workplaces and have the agency to uplift their students of color as well.
At Center for Powerful Public Schools, we are committed to removing barriers to achievement for Black students, families, and educators. We work with schools to become more culturally relevant, more inclusive, and better learning spaces for all. We have been providing targeted teacher professional development on this theme every Thursday and Friday afternoon and on Saturdays for the past two months in partnership with LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP.) We are pleased by and grateful for LAUSD’s efforts in this initiative.