A growing number of studies are showing a link between teacher diversity and minority student performance. Yet the demographics of teachers at Seattle Public Schools is lagging far behind the demographics of the student bodies. Though only 43 percent of students at SPS are white, 79 percent of teachers are white.
To illustrate the story, the Seattle Times’ Brian Rosenthal observes a classroom at Leschi Elementary. The class’s teacher, Treneicia Gardner, was helped by a scholarship from the [Edgar] Martinez Foundation, which is focused on increasing teacher diversity:
Treneicia Gardner is counting down from five, signaling her kindergarten and first-grade students to hurry to the classroom rug for a math lesson.
Most have no problem making it. The only holdup is a line of kids hoping to grab a quick hug before bounding to their spots.
It’s a blend of control and connection even the most experienced educator might envy, and Gardner is a first-year teacher at a diverse, high-poverty school.
To be sure, her effectiveness stems from contagious energy, creative lesson planning and superhuman patience. But the 28-year-old says she has an extra advantage: Gardner, like many of her students, is African American.
“Absolutely, I feel like it makes a difference,” she said, reflecting at lunchtime on a recent school day at Seattle’s Leschi Elementary. “As a minority woman, things that I have experienced in my life are the same things they’re dealing with. It brings our relationship closer … It increases their comfort level and their confidence.”