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Late Wednesday evening, as part of a marathon bill-passing session, the Colorado State Senate passed HB14-1175, which would allocate $50,000 to study how to attract and retain minority K-12 teachers.
It’s certainly true that minorities constitute a much lower percentage of teachers than of students in Colorado, and it’s also true that white students outperform their minority classmates with higher graduation rates and test scores. It’s not committing the sin of race-obsession to understand that kids might want an authority figure around who looks like them. However, whether or not poorer performance is a result of a lack of same-race role models is a matter of considerable debate.
What is clear is that if minority students do perform better with teachers of their own race, another group of students who are being similarly shortchanged by Colorado’s education system also have a strong case.
One researcher, who found a positive correlation between “exposure to an own-race teacher and student achievement” also found that “assignment to a same-gender teacher significantly improves the achievement of both girls and boys”.
Colorado has a massive shortage of male teachers:
Women have consistently constituted three-fourths of Colorado’s K-12 teachers for at least 15 years, according to statistics from the Colorado Department of Education. Making the same assumptions about boys that are made about minorities, the effect on Colorado’s young men is potentially devastating.
While girls graduate at an 81 percent rate statewide, boys graduate at only 73%. If boys were to graduate at the same rate as girls, that would mean 2,400 more diplomas annually for Colorado boys. Not all would go to college, of course, but that number represents roughly the entire male freshman class at CU Denver.
These graduation rates reflect the results of a student’s lifetime of falling behind. According to Colorado’s own TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) test scores, boys start out behind girls in reading and writing, and fall even further behind between 3rd and 10th grades:
And while it’s a truism that boys outperform girls in what is now the all-important STEM subjects, Colorado’s test scores don’t bear that out. They show a system that is failing all its students at just about the same rate, regardless of sex. Whether your child is a boy or a girl, if they’re attending a Colorado school, they have roughly a two-thirds chance of fall short of math proficiency by the time they’re ready to start prepping for college entrance exams. Focusing on a 3 percent disparity between the sexes there seems to be missing a broader point.
None of this is to suggest that is might not be helpful to black and Hispanic students to have some black and Hispanic role models at school.
We look with some skepticism at the claim, however, that this is a critical piece of a kid’s in-school education. After all, wasn’t it only last year that Coloradans repeatedly were told money was the magic bullet, when many of these same experts pushed for a massive statewide tax increase to help fund Denver schools and PERA?
Nevertheless, if it holds true for struggling minority students, there’s no reason to think that it doesn’t hold equally true for boys. As of yet, however, they appear not to have many advocates at the State Capitol.
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