Tulsa Public School's Teacher Diversity Mirrors The National Trend

Thursday, June 24th 2010, 9:03 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- It's a staggering statistic that our nation's top educator says needs to change.

Less than 2% percent of the country's teachers are African American men. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls it a serious problem that he's on a mission to fix.

News on Six Education Reporter Ashli Sims found out the diversity of Tulsa's teachers mirrors the national trend.

Glancing around a summer school class you see a pretty diverse group of students. But those at the head of the class don't often reflect the students they teach.

In Tulsa Public Schools, where nearly 34% of students are black, only 3.5% of teachers are African American.

"It's staggering. It's staggering," said Dr. Oliver Wallace, Central High School Principal. "It's mind-boggling."

Oliver Wallace, principal at Central High School, said his race does make a difference with his young minority students.

"It helps them connect," he said. "They know that we understand them."

That connection has been lost in many schools. And the nation's top educator, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, wants to change that.

"In many cases they see you as a father," said Millard House, Assistant Superintendent for Tulsa Public Schools. "They see you as a figure for those that don't have the father in the household."

The research suggests the impact of minority teachers could go deeper than just role models. A 2004 study showed black students taught by black teachers improved by three to four points on state tests. A follow-up study done by Duke University in 2005 called the evidence "suggestive" but not "conclusive."

Neither of these educators is arguing that race should be the only factor when recruiting teachers.

"The important thing is having an effective teacher in front of children," House said. "Whether they're white, black, green or yellow."

But they do believe having more teachers who look like the students they teach could improve education.

"I agree with a good teacher is a good teacher," Dr. Wallace said. "But some of our students need a little more attention. And they need someone that can understand them. That part you can't argue."