Why Does Representation in BIPOC Education Matter?

Building our own table to change the narrative around BIPOC education.

According to recent federal data, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) make up roughly 37% of the adult population (age 18 and older) and 50% of children (birth to age 18) in the United States. However, BIPOC educators make up just 19% of the public school teaching force in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019; U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). The lack of representation in BIPOC education can lead to misunderstandings culturally, linguistically, and in student-teacher relationships and interactions that pose detrimental to the long-term success of BIPOC students.

Several rigorous, large-scale studies have shown that teacher diversity tends to have significant educational benefits for all students, with particularly strong benefits for Students of Color.

Secondary Education (High School) - Representation in BIPOC Education

Dr. Charles Martin-Stanley II, Director of Diversity, Equity. and Inclusivity at Mount Mercy University, notes culturally-competent teachers can help students by counteracting prejudiced narratives. Cultural competence requires interpersonal awareness, cultural knowledge, and a skill set that promotes impactful cross-cultural teaching with historically underserved students. Additionally, research has proven that diverse teachers increase graduation rates and academic success, and decrease discipline referrals for students of color.


Special Education Services

Research shows that when students of color need special services in certain areas, they often do not receive them. In a study in 2018 by Morgan and Farkas, it was found that  74% of White fourth-grade children with reading difficulties were receiving special education services but that only 44% of Black children and 43% of Hispanic children were receiving them.


Preschool Children Suspensions

While in parts of the United States, Black students made up just 18% of children in preschool, they represented nearly half of preschool children suspended. Preschool children sometimes engage in troublesome behavior such as kicking, hitting, and biting, but quality preschools have behavior intervention plans in place to counter these forms of acting out.


Identified for Gifted Programs

When nonverbal tests are used to identify students as gifted, those tests are said to be more objective measures of giftedness than verbal tests, especially for English language learners or children who don’t use Standard English. Using the nonverbal test in combination with the I.Q. test led to the odds of Black students being identified as gifted rose by 74% and of Hispanics being identified as gifted by 118%

A child of color who had a teacher of color in preschool through fifth grade is 39 percent more likely to persist through high school, than a child that did not. Regardless of our own individual views, it is undeniable that we each bring our own cultural lenses, biases, and preconceived notions to the table when we teach, conduct our work, and interact with others. We have to continuously work towards maintaining culturally competent engagements as the framework we operate from.

Anecdotes from families, research studies, and discrimination lawsuits all reveal that children of color face bias in schools. They’re disciplined more harshly, less likely to be identified as gifted, or to have access to quality teachers. Racism in schools has serious consequences—from fueling the school-to-prison pipeline to traumatizing children of color.

A lack of representation in BIPOC education creates missed opportunities to form bonds of understanding within the school community and within the future leaders we are teaching. However, the World Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WAIE) is building an environment and framework that will serve as a model on how to provide representation in BIPOC education so that a richer educational experience is gained by all students, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

There’s a growing body of research on the qualitative end that suggests that teachers of color actually understand the lived experiences of their students of color better, because they have lived them — or similar ones — themselves. These educators are much more empathetic and sympathetic about the real damages of racism in American society because they have experienced it as students.

Travis Bristol
Assistant Professor, University of California,
Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education
Quoted from XQ

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