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L.A. school board calls for study aimed at increasing hiring and retention of Black educators

Veronica Sierra | February 15, 2022

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This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.   

Allison Shelley for EDUimages

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution last week to study the district’s hiring and retention of Black educators aimed at improving staff diversity as concerns grow over a coming wave of possible teacher retirements.

Current LAUSD data shows far fewer Black teachers in classrooms compared to other ethnic groups. In addition some local districts have few Black educators compared to others. Additionally, a possible round of retirements of LAUSD teachers could mean an exodus of Black teachers at a time when few Black men and women are in the pipeline to replace them.   

Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, who sponsored the Black Educator Preparation and Retention Resolution, said the goal was to understand “the data more deeply and broadly.”

“There is very likely a huge number of students and L.A. staff members who will never meet a Black educator, ” said Ortiz Franklin, “and that’s a real problem.” 

The resolution directs newly-appointed superintendent Alberto Carvalho to create a plan that, in part, diversifies “the number of Black senior/executive leaders, Black administrators, Black leaders in Student Mental Health, and Black teachers in the District.” 

Research shows exposure to even one Black teacher can have a direct impact on academic performance and outcomes of Black students. 

“We know that at least one Black educator in the elementary school years increases your high school graduation rate and college attendance rate” for Black students, said Speak Up Parents educational advocate Lisa Ross.  

Currently, the resolution pointed out, “only 28.2 percent of Black students who graduated from District high school in 2019-2020 are eligible for (California state colleges and universities) compared to 37.7 percent of all students, according to the District Equity Scorecard.”

In the current school year, Black teachers represent 8.3% of the LAUSD  workforce, compared to  30.6% White and 46% Latino teachers, according to the district’s data, Black students make up for 7% of the district’s enrollment.

Though the proportion of Black teachers to Black students is nearly even, researchers pointed to a troubling trend: With 40% of LAUSD’s teachers over the age of 50 and many Black female teachers nearing retirement, there are few younger Black women and men applying for the jobs. 

“What we’ve learned is that a large percentage of black educators are nearing retirement,” said CEO of Diversity in Leadership Laura McGowan-Robinson. “But fewer numbers of Black educators are coming into the district.” 

Current data show with the total number of Black LAUSD teachers at 2,063, they lag far behind  other ethnic groups, such as Hispanic teachers (10,4610), White teachers (7,358), and Asian teachers (2,147). 

In addition, an uneven concentration of Black teachers shows many students have far less access to them.  In the West local district for example there are 694 Black teachers, compared to East local district where there are 106.  

See full chart here. (LAUSD)

During  the board meeting, parents and advocates spoke expressing their support for the resolution and shared personal experiences about how diverse representation in schools has had a meaningful impact on their children’s academic success.

“I still clearly remember my first Black educator,” said parent advocate Yasmin Imani, speaking at the board meeting. “Her name was Ms. Alexander and I had her in the fourth grade. I felt so supported and cared for.”

Veronica Sierra is a sophomore pursuing a journalism degree at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was born and raised in Valencia, Venezuela; and moved to California in 2015 where she continued high school, graduating in 2020. 

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