“Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?” #VirginiaNeedsMoreTeachersOfColor #ThePygmalionEffect

Over the course of years, I would receive magazines from the Virginia Journal of Education, and rarely did I ever read them.  One day I came home, looked in my mailbox, and sorted my mail only to see there was a magazine from VEA.  As I was about to place the magazine in the junk mail pile, a little voice inside of me said, “Read it!”  I flipped the magazine open and caught the headline, “Virginia Needs More Teachers of Color.”  The opening paragraph stated that according to a report from the Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline, “Almost half (49 percent) of the students in Virginia’s public schools are minorities; however, only one in five (21 percent) of their teachers are” (Rowell).  I proceeded to read and one statement stood out to me, “All students benefit from having teachers with diverse backgrounds, but research indicates teachers of color play an important role in improving outcomes for students of color” (Rowell).  Interesting…I thought to myself. Very interesting.

So, with the title of that article being, “Virginia Needs More Teachers of Color,” naturally my question was, well, “Where are all of the teachers of color?” I did some research that led me to an article entitled, “Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?”  This article dug up some background history in response to the question.  When districts integrated their schools post-Brown, black schools were shuttered or absorbed.  Celebrated black principals were demoted or fired.  By some estimates nearly a third of African American teachers lost their jobs, and those who survived were sometimes selected based on a lighter skin color that made them more palatable to white communities. During this period, white communities regarded the arrival of blacks as an attack on their schools and these stories deterred blacks from pursuing teaching careers (Staples).


Furthermore, addressing other topics, the article explained how black children from impoverished families benefit from having black teachers.  Studies show that children who encounter African American teachers are more likely to be recognized as bright enough for gifted and talented programs, more likely to be viewed as capable of success and more likely to graduate from high-school and aim for college (Barshay). Unfortunately, statistics now are also showing that districts are doing a terrible job of retaining teachers of color and that more leave the field each year than enter it.  A 2016 report said that this is happening because African Americans interested in teaching black students find they are steered into positions where they only teach black students. They complain of only being pigeonholed as disciplinarians and their other talents rendered invisible (Griffin).

Since my question was answered about where all the black teachers went, I revisited the article, “Virginia Needing More Teachers of Color”.  In lieu of that article, I present the Pygmalion Effect.  


The Pygmalion Effect is described as positive expectations influencing performance positively and negative expectations influencing performance negatively (Rosenthal).  Researching Rosenthal’s phenomenon I came across a quote; “When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in certain ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur (Rosenthal).  Immediately, I thought of Dr. Crystal Hoyt’s lecture on implicit bias, stereotype threat and gender/racial bias.  In terms of teaching, faculty who gripe about students establish a climate of failure, but faculty who value their students abilities create a climate of success.  When we talk about leadership, the underlying question is. “What kind of climate are you creating through your expectations?”

Teachers of color are needed to impact those outcomes of students of color because in my opinion teachers of color understand those students better.  Whether coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds, having the same racial identity makes a difference.  Understanding one’s culture, having similar backgrounds and struggles, teachers and students develop relationships of shared experiences where they can relate.  Relatable transforms into relational, which is key for the establishment of trust and respect. In regards to Pygmalion, teachers of color tend to have more positive perceptions of students of color and different expectations than non colored teachers (Brown).  The lack of diversity, along with differing interpretations of student ability and behavior may explain why students of color are suspended or expelled at disproportionate rates, have risk of academic disengagement and increased probability of dropout.

Overall, I believe this topic is amazing for conversation, reflection, and awareness. From a leadership perspective it does pose questions like: Where are teachers of color predominantly placed in a school district? Why are they placed where they are placed? What are the hiring and retention practices for teachers of color? And Do students perform better having teachers who look like them?  The conversation of race is synonymous with black and white; however, America is a melting pot with growing minority populations. How do we ensure that there is equity of racial identity in schools across Virginia and nationwide?

Barshay, Jill. (2016, January 19). Bright Black Students Taught by Black Teachers Are More Likely to Get Into Gifted and Talented Classrooms. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from, http://hechingerreport.org/bright-black-students-who-are-taught-by-black-teachers-are-more-likely-to-get-into-gifted-and-talented-classrooms/

Brown, Emma. (2016, March 31). White Teachers and Black Teachers Have Different Expectations for Black Students. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/03/31/white-teachers-and-black-teachers-have-different-expectations-for-black-students/?utm_term=.c4556056f0ed

Griffin, Ashley. (2016 November 3). Through Our Eyes: Perspectives and Reflections From Black Teachers. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from, https://edtrust.org/resource/eyes-perspectives-reflections-black-teachers/

Staples, Brent. (2017 April 20). Where Did All The Black Teachers Go? Retrieved October 26, 2017 from, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/opinion/where-did-all-the-black-teachers-go.html

Strauss, Valerie. (2016 April 9). Study: Black Students From Poor Families Are More Likely to Graduate From High School If They Have At Least One Black Teacher. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/04/09/study-black-students-from-poor-families-are-more-likely-to-graduate-high-school-if-they-have-at-least-one-black-teacher/

Rosenthal, R, and L. Jacobsen. Pygmalion in the classroom: teacher expectation and pupils’ intellectual development. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968.

Rowell, Virginia. (2017 November). Virginia Needs More Teachers of Color. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from, Virginia Journal of Education.

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