Racial Microaggressions and Stereotyping Are Some of the Reasons Why Black Math Teachers Consider Leaving the Classroom

Black teachers are leaving the field at a higher rate than colleagues of other races and ethnicities, deservedly drawing the attention of policymakers. Our recent publication in Educational Researcher addressed factors that could shed light on retention issues facing Black mathematics teachers.

growing body of research points to the importance and significance of Black teachers from pre-K through high school. These studies indicate that Black teachers are viewed as role models by children from all backgrounds, and they also improve the academic outcomes and experiences of students of color. Black teachers are also more likely to work and remain in urban schools, where students are predominantly Black and Brown.

DATA ABOUT BLACK MATHEMATICS TEACHERS

Seminal educational scholarship describes Black teachers’ praxis, lived experiences, and traditions, but little of it is subject-area specific. Our study focused on retention of Black mathematics teachers, a subject area that is often described as “hard-to-staff” and with a long history of poorly serving the needs of Black students.

Analysis from a dissertation quantifying the turnover of Black mathematics teachers noted that Black secondary mathematics teachers represent approximately 6% of all certified public school secondary mathematics teachers. Nearly half enter the profession through alternative certification programs. Most Black teachers also find themselves teaching relatively less-advanced courses, such as remedial-level mathematics and Algebra 1. A quick glance at these nationwide employment data shows, in part, why leading organizations have described hiring more mathematics teachers of color as an actionable step toward a “just, equitable, and sustainable system of mathematics education for all children.”

POLICY DIRECTIONS

Given the U.S. student population and the proven benefits of all students learning from Black teachers, the numbers above represent an ongoing crisis. It is not surprising, then, that elected officials in states from California to Louisiana are restructuring departments and developing incentives to recruit and retain Black instructors and other teachers of color. States have been encouraged to develop financial incentives that would underwrite the cost of teacher preparation and professional development in order to pull Black teachers into the classroom.

While these investments are welcome and needed, our research suggests that these policies are not sufficient to address this long-standing issue. Without school- and district-level policy changes that foster work environments where Black teachers will want to stay and flourish, our analysis found that personal and school-level climate factors impact Black teachers’ thoughts of leaving the classroom.

ANTI-BLACKNESS AS A FEATURE OF SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS?

To capture the experiences of Black mathematics teachers in schools, our research team conducted a four-year mixed methods study, “Examining the Trajectories of Black Mathematics Teachers,” at the intersection of the Black teaching tradition, mathematics education, and the impact of race and racism. The quantitative component of our work entailed developing and administering the Black Teachers of Mathematics Perceptions Survey to measure Black teachers’ perceptions of mathematics content and pedagogy, their paths to teaching, and their working conditions.

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SOURCE: Brookings.edu, Toya J. Frank, Jay A. Bradley, Marvin G. Powell, Jenice L. View, Christina Lee, and Asia Williams

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