Challenges like disrespect, low pay, and lack of support hinder Black teachers from joining the profession

Petrina Miller recalls a time in Los Angeles Unified when she observed a colleague giving Black students and other students of color the answers during district testing. Miller, a young teacher at the time, questioned the approach, advocating for letting the students struggle productively and earn their scores through effort.

“Let them have a productive struggle,” Miller emphasized. “Let them try, and whatever score they get is what they get. And that’s fine.”

However, the response she received from the teacher was not supportive. The teacher condescendingly remarked, “Poor little babies, they don’t know any better,” which made Miller uncomfortable. Furthermore, on a separate occasion, the same teacher used a racist slur to refer to Miller, who is Black.

Challenges Faced by Black Teachers: Recruitment and Retention Strategies

This marks the commencement of a special series focusing on the recruitment and retention of Black teachers in California. Despite the pressing demand due to a shortage of teachers, recruiting and retaining Black educators have persisted as significant challenges.

Our series delves into the barriers hindering Black individuals from pursuing a teaching career, encompassing issues of bias and inadequate support encountered upon entering the profession.

The subsequent pieces in this series will highlight the narratives of five Black teachers sharing their classroom experiences. The final installment will analyze the efforts undertaken by California and school districts to recruit and retain Black teachers, shedding light on the necessary steps ahead.

Although the incidents were brought to the attention of the principal, the implicated teacher continued working at the school without any clarity on disciplinary actions taken. Petrina Miller remains uncertain about the consequences faced by the teacher for her behavior.

Despite longstanding endeavors by states like California to recruit and retain Black teachers, the statistics paint a bleak picture. The percentage of Black teachers in California remains at a discouraging 3.8%. This stark reality points to systemic challenges, including the lack of support and respect afforded to Black teachers once they enter the teaching profession.

“Black teachers depart the profession due to inadequate recognition of their unique contributions and experiences, reflecting the inequitable treatment compared to their counterparts,” remarked Brenda Walker, a Black teacher and president of Associated Chino Teachers.

During the 2020-21 academic year, a mere 3.8% of all teachers in California identified as Black, as per data from the National Center for Education Statistics. In contrast, Black students constituted 5.2% of the state’s student population that same year, according to the California Department of Education.

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April 4, 2024

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