Boston City Councilor Works to Increase Staff Diversity in Boston Public Schools
“Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” said Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson. Speaking about the positive impact diverse teachers have on students, Jackson called for more diversity in Boston Public Schools at a press conference with Suffolk University journalism students earlier this month.
Jackson, a District Seven City Councilor and the Chairman of Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, is working with the local school system to improve the recent Teacher Diversity Action Plan.
Boston Public Schools (BPS) currently educate about 57,000 students. Since being desegregated by court order in 1974, the BPS student body is now greatly diverse. According to Jackson, 45 percent of BPS students are Latino, but Latinos make up less than 15 percent of BPS teachers. By recruiting diverse teaching professionals and reorganizing the way Boston evaluates its teachers, Jackson hopes to have a “teacher pool that is a reflection of the students.”
According to Jackson, BPS is recruiting teachers from traditionally African American universities to combat the small pools of newly graduated education professionals. BPS also uses a pipeline program to recruit teachers from minority backgrounds. The program has now expanded to local middle schools, to increase awareness and interest in education careers.
Despite recruitment efforts, BPS still loses more minority teachers than it hires. By making teacher evaluations more subjective and reliant on the teacher’s connections with his or her students, BPS is trying to keep diverse teachers from having to retire early.
Jackson said he wants to see experienced teachers of all races to stay and enrich the education system. “It is critical to have rookies,” he said, “but the Red Sox didn’t win without Big Papi.”
BPS also uses mentorship programs, including those specifically for male African American teachers. Although 35 percent of BPS students are African American, according to Jackson, 20 schools in the Boston area have no black male teachers.
Dropout rates of black and Latino males are double that of their Asian and white peers. Jackson stressed the importance of relatable, successful role models, reading feedback from a Roxbury teacher whose middle school class visited him at City Hall. “When Mr. Tito gets too old, I’m going to do his job, wear fresh suits every day, and give money to music and art,” said one of her students.
BPS is “the oldest education system in the country,” Jackson said. “We led then, well, how do we lead now? What does leadership actually look like? And [regarding diversity] it can’t be just checking a box.”