Teacher Diversity and Learning – Part II, Letters

Readers discuss findings that students learn better when they are the same race and gender as their teacher.

Sept. 22, 2018

Zara Gibbon helps a new sixth grader at Animo Westside Charter Middle School in Los Angeles. A majority of teachers in American schools are women.

To the Editor:

Re “Students Thrive When Teachers Are Like Them” (The Upshot, front page, Sept. 11):

So now I have to apologize for being a white female teacher to the nonwhite students in my classes? News bulletin: My black and Asian and Hispanic and Native American students did as well as my white students. I treated them equally. I helped them as often. I laughed at their jokes, and they at mine, just as often. I phoned their parents if they were misbehaving just as often. I hugged them as often when they needed that support.

I understand the point of your article, and I assume there is some truth to it. But good teaching and hard work by the students are far more to the point.

Ann Bourman

Los Angeles

The writer is a retired middle school English and history teacher.

To the Editor:

“Students Thrive When Teachers Are Like Them” had a terribly misleading headline. Though the story had more nuance and acknowledged that biases and expectations are playing a role in student performance, such reporting will continue to perpetuate two misguided arguments rampant in this country’s discussion of education.

The first is that differences in student outcomes are mostly because of (bad) teachers, even though research shows that differences in teacher quality explain only about 10 percent of the differences in student performance. If we are serious about improvement, there are more effective strategies than continued teacher blaming.

The second misguided argument is that diversity in the teaching corps is important because it can somehow magically improve outcomes for lower-performing students of color. A diverse teaching corps should be a goal of every school not because it may raise the test scores of some students, but because it will help all students understand that our country is made up of many different kinds of people and that this variety is one of the strengths of our democracy.

Jeremy Glazer

Glassboro, N.J.

The writer is an assistant professor at the College of Education at Rowan University.

To the Editor:

While separate was never equal in our national schools, the Rosenwald model demonstrated the enormous value of engaging the black community in the education of children. Julius Rosenwald, a man of formidable character, sought the help of Booker T. Washington in designing more than 5,000 schools, mostly in the South, built by and for black communities, and staffed by black teachers.

The results were extremely valuable: Representative John Lewis and Maya Angelou were graduates of Rosenwald Schools, among thousands of other productive members of communities throughout this country.

Segregation stinks, but integration is hollow when it does not empower the intended recipients. Mr. Rosenwald understood one bedrock principle: If it is yours and you value it, the trajectory is upward. We have evidence of what works but, alas, we prefer our theories to facts.

Tama Zorn

Brookline, Mass.

Ray Myers