Diversity in the Classroom

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Vivian Wu

More stories from Vivian Wu

Crazy Rich Asians
October 3, 2018

  More than half a century ago, the Supreme Court ruled against the legality of segregation in school based on ethnicity. Today, minority students make up more than half of the student body on average nationwide. However, this increase in minority students is not reflected in the educational staff. Studies by NCES (National Center For Educational Statistics) show that since the 1980s, more than 80 percent of teachers have been white. Black teachers make up roughly around 10 percent, and Hispanic and other minorities make up for less.

  At LVA, the past four years have shown a steady decrease (around 1 percent each year) in white students and an increase in minority students. In the 2013-2014 school year, white students made up for 48.3 percent of the student body, but in 2017-2018, they represent only 43.9 percent. Even with the increase in minority students, however, minority teachers account for less than 10 percent of the teaching staff. Currently, LVA has three Hispanic, two Asian, one multi-ethnic, and one black teachers compared to the 72 white teachers.

  The question that now arises is why, even with the increase in students of color, hasn’t the teaching staff diversified? Ms. Beserra, a black social studies teacher, believes that it’s not enough to just wait for people of color to apply, instead, the district and school administrators should be actively recruiting them.

  “What I’ve observed,” she said, “is whether they know.”

  What Ms. Beserra is asking is whether people of color know that such opportunities are there for them. Often times, students of color fail to see their ethnicity and culture represented in work fields in which they may desire to pursue in, causing them to believe it impossible to succeed in that field. This could explain why 70 percent of students who go on to major in education are white. Out of 30 students surveyed here at LVA, 63 percent said that they had zero teachers of color, 30 percent said they had one, and 7 percent said they had two. From that number, only 1 percent of students of color said a teacher of theirs shared their ethnicity.

  A minority teacher is not only representative of the growing diversity of the country, but also representative of the ability to succeed in what seems like a white-dominated society. It forces students to consider, “If they can do it, so can I.”

  Still, one’s skin color should never be the deciding factor in any field of work, and students believe that having a qualified teacher is most important. Of the 30 students surveyed, 40 percent said that having a teacher who shared the same ethnicity wouldn’t affect their education. Señor Troche, a Puerto Rican Spanish teacher, agrees as he doesn’t see the gap between the amount of white teachers compared to minority teachers as an issue.

  “I think it’s more important to create a sense of community regardless of race,” he says.

  Recalling his time as a hispanic student attending LVA, he says that having his one hispanic English teacher “didn’t matter” or affect his overall education.

  But students of color also believe that having a teacher who shares their ethnicity and culture could mean having a richer learning environment. Having a diverse staff means having a diverse outlook on not only what’s being taught, but how it’s being taught, and could broaden the conversations being had at LVA.

  “With so much going on in the world, like in politics and society, it would be great to have a teacher that sees it from your point of view,” says film major, Jessica Crosby, 10.

  For piano major, Denise Coyco, 12, having a teacher who shares the same ethnicity and culture could make connections easier and more comfortable.

  The lack of minority teachers in the education work field exists, but whether administrators and school districts should be allocating time and resource in recruiting them can be debated, and the benefits of sharing one’s ethnicity with their teacher is hypothetical. But recognizing that this is a prevalent topic in need of open discussion is one step closer to answering this hypothetical question that affects current and future improvements in education.