This article by Tim Hurley and Dr. Ronald Carter appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our January 23rd e-Newsletter and originally appeared in The Charlotte Post. For Your Consideration* provides an open forum for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues.
Tomorrow morning, 50,000 of Charlotte’s children will wake up in poverty. Of them, 26,000 – or about 300 buses full – will be black. For years, and despite tremendous efforts from educators across classrooms and communities, we’ve collectively failed to provide these smart and capable children with the opportunities they deserve. Today, just two of three black students in Charlotte can expect to graduate from high school.
This does not have to be the case.
Every day, teachers and students across Charlotte achieve remarkable outcomes inside their classrooms. As they do, they prove what is possible when we have the courage and the will to expect the best – to reject the quiet, dangerous racism of low-expectations so crippling to the educational, economic and spiritual health of this city.
Now, as we look to do this at scale – to go from individual outstanding classrooms to a city that lives up to America’s promise of equal opportunity for all – we must build a teaching force as diverse as the children we reach. Effective educators come from all backgrounds. But we also know that teachers and principals who share the background of their students have the potential for a profound additional impact.
Over the last five years, 29 graduates of Johnson C. Smith University have surveyed the wealth of opportunities at their fingertips and chosen education – what many call the greatest civil rights issue of our time. Among them, is Durrell Brown – class of 2009 and JCSU student body president. Mr. Brown joined Teach For America after graduation to teach middle school science. Along the way, he offered his students a tangible model of their own potential.
In Charlotte, about 40 percent of our students are African American. Across the country, our teaching force looks very different. Nationally, just 14 percent of teachers are black or Latino. And only 2 percent are black men. Closing this diversity gap will play a critical role in closing the achievement gap in our city and nationwide.
We must seize the opportunity to grow the number of outstanding teachers standing at the blackboard who look just like our kids. Together Johnson C. Smith University and Teach For America are committed to fueling this pipeline of talented educators of color here in Charlotte – working together to identify promising role-models-in-the-making, empowering them to make the choice to teach, and supporting them as they pursue excellent outcomes for the children in their care.
Delivering on the promise of equal educational opportunities will take a sustained commitment from all of us – public officials, parents, civic leaders and those courageous enough to commit their talents to the great challenges and rewards to a life of service in education.
For those 300 buses of students, the time is now. We must urge and inspire our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters to take on leadership in the classroom. The buses will not wait.
*Please note the views expressed in For Your Consideration are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MeckEd.
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About the Authors:
Ronald Carter is president of Johnson C. Smith University, and Tim Hurley is the executive director of Teach For America-Charlotte.