DC teachers say school system needs more black teachers

As the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests have prompted conversations about race across America, D.C. teachers have stepped forward to inform the D.C. State Board of Education that they believe the city needs more black teachers.

At Wednesday night’s regularly-scheduled meeting, teachers expressed support for a resolution aimed at getting more black teachers into local classrooms.

Maya Baum, who described herself as a white 4th grade teacher at Thomson Elementary, testified that she had a black student this past school year whom she could not successfully teach.

She said it was only when the child connected with a black teacher at the school that the child could properly learn.

“It had nothing to do with her ability or her smartness, rather that she had someone that looked like her, encouraging her and showing her that she could,” Baum said. “While I utilized many similar methods and had a very good relationship with this student, it still wasn’t the same.”

Baum’s assessment was met with agreement from other teachers, including Armand Cuevas, a teacher at Dunbar High School. He identified himself as Asian-American/Filipino and agreed that black students need black teachers.

“Our students need to see themselves reflected in the teachers, the ones who they interact with everyday in the classroom,” Cuevas said.

The high school teacher also testified that students of all races would benefit from having a black teacher.

“Countless studies have shown that students, no matter what their race, actually benefit more from having a teacher of color. Furthermore, given that 67% of our student body is black and only 56% of our teachers are black, it’s even more crucial,” Cuevas said.

The State Board of Education’s resolution would encourage the hiring and retention of black teachers for D.C. Public Schools.

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