Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 7
Black Teachers Feel Pigeonholed on the Job, Report Says
By Madeline Will
When Randy R. Miller first stepped
into the classroom as a teacher, he fell
in love with teaching. But six years
later, he has left the classroom and
doesn't think he'll ever go back.
Miller, an African-American man
who taught middle and high school
social studies in New Jersey charter
schools, left teaching because he was
frustrated with an increasing number of demands and a limited amount
of support. But some challenges, he
told Education Week, felt particular
to his race. For example, he said he
was looked at as the de facto disciplinarian because he was the only black
It was a source of tension, said
Miller, who is now the director of
a school district's after-school program. He was skilled at classroom
management; he could call on his
shared experiences with his students of color to relate to them. But
he didn't want to be viewed as a
disciplinarian-he wanted to be respected as a teacher.
Miller's experiences are echoed
by others in a new report from the
Education Trust, a nonprofit group
that advocates for better schooling
for students of color and low-income
students. The report tells the stories
of black teachers who feel as if they
have been pigeonholed into specific
roles by their colleagues, administrators, and parents, hurting their oppor-
tunities to advance in their careers.
The researchers spoke to 150
black teachers in regular public
schools and public charter schools
in seven states. Eighty percent of
them were women. The sample was
representative of black teachers in
the United States by region and experience level.
Only 7 percent of public school
teachers are black-and just 2 percent are black men. (See Education
Week, February 17, 2016.)
While many districts and state
initiatives have focused on recruiting more teachers of color, nonwhite
teachers are still exiting the profession at higher rates than their white
counterparts. Ashley Griffin, the coauthor of the report and the interim
director of K-12 research at the Education Trust, said the challenges described in the report likely contribute
to those low retention rates.
given exclusionary discipline. Another
recent study found that students of all
races prefer teachers of color, possibly
because they are adept at translating
their experiences to build rapport with
students of different backgrounds.
But that skill set can come with
professional drawbacks. Black
just a teacher-
you're a disciplinarian,
you're a mentor,
you're a counselor. ..."
RANDY R. MILLER
Former New Jersey teacher
A 'Draining' Responsibility
Black teachers told researchers they
felt they could connect with black students particularly well because of
perceived cultural and experiential
similarities. They said they could
empathize with students of color and
inspire the students to succeed in different ways from white teachers.
In fact, new research has found that
black teachers are less likely to suspend, expel, or give detention to black
students, who are disproportionately
teachers told researchers they often
feel restricted to teaching only black
students, despite wanting to be seen
as capable of teaching all populations. Teachers expressed frustration about being shoehorned into
a disciplinarian or counselor role,
which took away from their planning and instructional time.
In Miller's case, the extra roles
and expectations that came from
administrators, colleagues, parents,
and students became overwhelming:
"You're not just a teacher-you're a
disciplinarian, you're a mentor, you're
a counselor, you're all of these things,"
he said. "It can be very draining... . You
look at your white counterparts, and
they don't feel the same drain.
"It's a pressure that can really
weigh on you as a black teacher."
And teachers in the Education
Trust report said they felt burdened
by an expectation to relate to every
black child, even those from different socioeconomic backgrounds or
One former teacher, a black
woman who now provides professional development for teachers
in Texas and who asked to remain
anonymous so she could speak candidly, said she grew up in a rural
area. When she taught in an urban
district, she didn't feel an instant
connection to her students of color.
"Some of the black students I had
in my class were night and day from
how I grew up," she said. "I tried to
relate to them the best I could. ... I
don't think that can be generalized."
Black teachers in the report said
they rarely got the chance to teach
honors or Advanced Placement
classes. They told Education Trust
researchers they felt administrators
believed they could only teach lowerperforming classes. Black teachers,
Griffin said, are often found in the
highest-needs schools and don't always receive the same professional-
development opportunities, hindering their professional growth.
"Teachers feel an obligation to
their black students, but they also
feel an obligation to themselves as
a professional to grow," Griffin said.
African-American teachers told
researchers they felt their expertise
and professional contributions were
dismissed or went unnoticed. They
said they felt they had to police their
own behavior to be seen as more professional and had to work twice as
hard as their white colleagues.
Black teachers often felt alienated
and devalued, the report concludes.
Christopher Emdin, an associate
professor of science education at
Teachers College, Columbia University, who has studied race and education, said the report's narratives
have so far been largely absent from
the discourse on teacher diversity.
"It's not shocking, but it's illuminating," he said. "It's the thing that
jars you to be more mindful in your
The Education Trust's Griffin said
the report did not provide recommendations because black teachers'
experiences are unique. Instead, she
said, districts should look at their
teacher-retention data-and then
form their own focus groups to listen to the experiences of their black
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EDUCATION WEEK | November 16, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 16, 2016
Education Week - November 16, 2016
Few Women Run School Districts. Why?
Trump’s Lesson Plan Awaited
A Day After Election, Classes Are Awash in Emotions
News in Brief
States Found to Offer 95 Kinds of Diplomas
Black Teachers Feel Pigeonholed On the Job, Report Says
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Eager to Innovate: African-American Teenagers and Technology
Positive Climates May Shrink Achievement Gaps
Q&A: ‘You Just Do the Work’
Proposed ESSA Spending Rules Encounter Stiff Resistance
Oklahoma Schools Chief Facing Campaign-Finance Charges
Sharp Questions Posed In Service-Dog Case
SNAPSHOT: Title IX and Transgender Students: Some Key Developments Over 44 Years
Governors and Schools Chiefs Results
Ed. Policy on Simmer as GOP Holds Congress
GOP Solidifies Hold on State-Level Leadership
State Ballot Measures
In Mass., Voters Shun More Charter Schools
Bilingual Education Set to Return to California Schools
Education Department May Again Find Itself in GOP Cross Hairs
Teachers’ Unions Spend Big, Mostly Fall Short in Elections
SUSAN MOORE JOHNSON: To Decentralize or Not? Is That Even the Question?
JIM HAAS: Oh, the Humanity!
GREGG WEINLEIN: The School Friendship Challenge
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
GARY BEACH: Does the U.S. Department of Education Need to Be Restructured?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - A Day After Election, Classes Are Awash in Emotions
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - States Found to Offer 95 Kinds of Diplomas
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Black Teachers Feel Pigeonholed On the Job, Report Says
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Eager to Innovate: African-American Teenagers and Technology
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Positive Climates May Shrink Achievement Gaps
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 10
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Q&A: ‘You Just Do the Work’
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 13
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 14
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Oklahoma Schools Chief Facing Campaign-Finance Charges
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Sharp Questions Posed In Service-Dog Case
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: Title IX and Transgender Students: Some Key Developments Over 44 Years
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GOP Solidifies Hold on State-Level Leadership
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - State Ballot Measures
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Bilingual Education Set to Return to California Schools
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 21
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Teachers’ Unions Spend Big, Mostly Fall Short in Elections
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Senate/House Results
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - SUSAN MOORE JOHNSON: To Decentralize or Not? Is That Even the Question?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - JIM HAAS: Oh, the Humanity!
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GREGG WEINLEIN: The School Friendship Challenge
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 29
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 30
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 31
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GARY BEACH: Does the U.S. Department of Education Need to Be Restructured?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW1
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW2
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW3
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW4