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13. Teaching Harlem: Black Teachers and the Changing Educational Landscape of Twenty- First-Century Central Harlem

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CHAPTER13
Teaching Harlem
Black Teachers and the Changing Educational Landscape
of Twenty- First-Century Central Harlem
BETHANYL. ROGERS AND TERRENDAC. WHITE
Who taught in Harlem? What did the presence, or absence, of
Black teachers in this historically Black community mean
for teachers, schools, and students? Teaching has long occu-
pied a special place in the history of African American communities, as the
discussion of Harlem Re nais sance artists who were also teachers helps show
in chapter 1 of this volume. Despite theoretically objective notions of
teacher “quality,” teachers’ identities— who they are, what attributes they
bring to bear, and how those factors are perceived to support students’ op-
portunities to learn— have mattered a great deal historically as well as
today. In an era in which there were few Black teachers in New York City
or Harlem, Black teachers were key gures and activists at Wadleigh High
School (see chapter3 of this volume). Black (and white) teachers used the
structure of the union to further activism, as described in chapters4 and 6
of this volume. Just as the nature of teaching is central to schooling, under-
standing teaching is fundamental to a deeper understanding of Harlem’s
educational history. The questions of who taught and who should teach
animated debates over community control in the 1960s, reected both
compliance and re sis tance to central school district mandates in the 1980s,
and took on new meaning in early twenty- rst-century Harlem, given an
educational landscape with a large and growing number of charter schools.
Starting in 1966, New York state or city authorities collected statistics
documenting the “racial/ethnic proles” of New York City teachers.1
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 299 ]
Examining these data for Central Harlem between 1972 and 2015 reveals
that in 1972, in a city where Black teachers had been severely underrepre-
sented as compared to the majority Black and Latinx student population,
nearly half of Central Harlem’s teachers were Black. This proportion grew
to a high point of 70 percent in the year 2000 and then began a precipi-
tous decline, so that by 2015, only about 45 percent of the area’s teachers
were Black.
This chapter seeks to document these trends and identify some of the
social and po liti cal forces, competing visions of schooling, and transfor-
mative events of the time that shaped Harlem’s teaching force during this
period. Contextualized within this longer historical trajectory, the chap-
ter also ponders what it has meant to some Black teachers to teach within
the new educational landscape of twenty- rst- centur y Harlem. The ebb
and ow of Black teachers in Central Harlem reveal diering denitions
of teacher quality, which variously prioritized race, culture, or credentials;
tensions between teacher agency and the systemic ghettoization of Black
teachers; and the evolving strug gle of a community to access educational
opportunity for their children. This account is not denitive, but it is an
initial eort to trace who taught in Harlem, suggest meaningful continu-
ities and disruptions across Harlem’s educational past and pre sent, and raise
questions that invite further research.
In the period from 1972 to 1999, the proportion of Black teachers rose,
and between 2000 and 2015, it declined.2 These periods span the 1969 de-
centralization of New York City schools and the reconsolidation of the
system ( under Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002), governance changes
that reshaped the city’s educational system and recongured the way Har-
lem was dened as an educational unit in the larger city. These were also
periods of educational change: the per sis tent quest on the part of Harlem-
ites for educational opportunity and self- determination, including through
community control and charter schools, and national and local shifts in ideas
about teacher quality and teacher preparation, licensing, and assignment.
These narratives intersect in the story of Harlem’s teachers, and they have
resonance as well for the larger history of Black teachers in northern urban
communities in the post– civil rights period.
Regarding the geographic scope of this inquiry, Harlem is divided into
three di er ent local school districts within New York City— Districts 3,
4, and 5eectively turning Harlem into “Harlems”3 (see chapter11, g-
ure11.1in this volume). In this chapter, we concentrate on the stor y of
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[ 300 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
Central Harlem’s District 5. Unlike District 3, which loops into the Upper
West Side of Manhattan to incorporate white, auent blocks, or District 4,
which contains a large Latinx presence, District 5 has long been known as
a primarily Black or African A merican communit y (though that has
changed over the past several de cades, part of the larger story of transfor-
mation in regard to who teaches in Harlem).
Scholars of African American history have long placed educators at the
center of their narratives, as far back as W.E.B.DuBois’s depiction of
reconstruction schools in The Souls of Black Folk, given the bond between
schooling and hopes for racial pro gress.4 Over the past thirty years histo-
rians have produced a rich scholarly accounting of African American teach-
ers who taught in segregated Black schools in the Jim Crow and post– Brown
v. Board of Education South. These histories variously explore Black teach-
ers’ beliefs about and intentions for teaching,5 their pedagogical approaches
and the quality of their teaching,6 and the status these teachers held in
their communities.7 Much of this lit er a ture suggests that “engaged, caring
faculties,along with power ful parental investment and community sup-
port, characterized the best versions of segregated African American schools.8
Such accounts further establish themes of “connectedness” on the part of
Black teachers to their community as well as a sense of obligation, as rela-
tively socially privileged individuals within struggling communities, to
racial uplift.9 Many Black teachers held high expectations for their stu-
dents, going above and beyond the connes of the classroom to support
them, and taking responsibility not only for academic instruction but also
for students’ “life success— and for the long term success of the African
American people.10
The history of Black teachers who taught in the urban north in the post–
civil rights period has not been nearly as well- documented as that of
southern Black teachers. A notable exception is the work of Christina Col-
lins, “Ethnically Qualied,” which considers why the proportion of minor-
ity teachers in some urban centers remained so low during the postwar era,
despite growing populations of students of color in American cities.11 Col-
lins draws on the particularly egregious example of New York City, where
a pernicious “network of institutional racism” shaped the se lection of teach-
ers and resulted in a system in which, as late as 1975, only 13 percent of the
city’s teachers were not white, though the proportion of students of color
had risen to 64 percent.12 In exposing the ways that di er ent stages in the
New York City Board of Education (BOE) pro cess for becoming an edu-
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 301 ]
cator ltered out teachers of color, Collins makes an invaluable contribu-
tion regarding the metropolis as a whole, ultimately showing how the re-
moval of such barriers over time led to growing repre sen ta tion of Black
teachers.13
Collins documents a crucial macro story of Black teachers’ strug gles to
gain purchase within the enmeshed system of accreditation, licensing, hir-
ing, and advancement in the New York Cit y public schools, but her ac-
count contains tantalizingly little evidence of what Black teachers them-
selves made of their experiences. From the sparse lit er a ture that exists about
Black teachers in the post– Brown urban north, we can surmise that most of
them continued to teach in segregated schools, and that many also per-
sisted in their special commitment to their Black students and to making
schooling a part of a larger liberation strategy, even if not all Black teach-
ers understood their work and their students in the same ways.14
Aggregate urban stories about New York have obscured the unique
and at times divergent accounts of par tic u lar communities, such as Har-
lem, within the larger metropolis. The racial and ethnic prole of Harlem
teachers departs from that of New York City as a whole during the decen-
tralization period, roughly 19692000. This chapter oers quantitative
and qualitative views of Central Harlem’s teacher population shifts from
1970 to 2015, with preliminary queries about the sources and meanings of
these shifts.
Teachers in Harlem, 19722000
For as long as Black children remained segregated (by “law and custom”),
teaching presented a signicant professional opportunity for Blacks.15 Thus,
in the early part of the twentieth century, Black teachers in Amer i ca over-
whelmingly taught Black children in the segregated South.16 By midcen-
tury, approximately 82,000 African American teachers were teaching
2million African American public school students, though major northern
cities still had relatively few Black teachers in relation to their Black popu-
lations.17 But the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision precipitated a
dramatic decline in Black teachers: between 1954 and 1972, over 39,000
Black teachers lost their jobs in 17 southern states, and from 1970 to 1986,
African American participation in the overal l teaching force steadily
waned.18 Starting in the late 1980s, although the number of Black teachers
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[ 302 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
actually increased (a factor of a growing national teaching corps), the actual
proportion of Black teachers continued to shrink, dropping from 8.2 percent
to 6.7 percent of the country’s teaching force.19
Against this period of national decline, New York City looks quite dif-
fer ent, at least between 1972 and 2000, when Black teachers increased from
9.5 percent to almost 21 percent of the teaching force. Harlem’s District 5
also saw a trend upward in the proportion of Black teachers, though at a
di er ent order of magnitude. In 1972, half of the educators in District 5
were Black— a power ful preponderance compared to less than 10 percent
citywide. That proportion grew to nearly 70 percent in District 5 by the
year 2000 (gure13.1).20
01020304050607080
Year
72–73
73–74
76–77
78–79
79–80
80–81
84–85
88–89
89–90
91–92
93–94
94–95
95–96
96–97
97–98
98–99
99–00
NYC
Dist 5
Figure 13.1 Proportions of Black educators in Distr ict 5 compared to NYC overall,
19722 000.
Source: Data derived f rom a series of available annual repor ts, Racial/Ethnic Distribu-
tion of Public School Students and Sta, authored by the USN Y and published by the
NYSDOE as part of its Basic Educational Data System. Reports featured here through
1984 85 p re sent data on Public School Sta, meaning all professional sta assigned fu ll-
time to one school, central oce professional sta, and those assigned to more than
one school; beginning with the 198889 report, we found an additional categor y that
excluded central oce sta, Public Classroom Teachers, which we used to chart the re-
maining years through 19992000.
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 303 ]
As the share of Black teachers in District 5 grew, so did the ranks of those
dened as Latinx teachers, from a tiny 1 percent repre sen ta tion in the early
1970s to 12 percent by 2000.21 And as the propor t ions of Dist r ic t 5 Black and
Latinx teachers expanded during these years, the fraction of District 5 white
educators shrank correspondingly, from nearly 50 percent in 1972 to
17 percent by the year 2000. Within a city historically hostile to hiring
Black teachers, they made up a growing majority of District 5’s teaching
force from the late 1970s through the end of the century (gure13.2).
What factors interacted to cause this high proportion of Black teachers
in District 5? Why did that proportion rise between 1972 and 2000? The
answers to these questions depend in part on the per sis tent segregation of
Figure13.2 Racial/ethnic distribution of District 5 educators, 19722000.
Source: Data derived f rom a series of available annual repor ts, Racial/Ethnic Distribu-
tion of Public School Students and Sta, authored by the USN Y and published by the
NYSDOE as part of its Basic Educational Data System. Reports featured here through
1984 85 p re sent data on Public School Sta, meaning all professional sta assigned fu ll-
time to one school, central oce professional sta, and those assigned to more than
one school; beginning with the 198889 report, we found an additional categor y that
excluded central oce sta, Public Classroom Teachers, which we used to chart the re-
maining years through 19992000.
49.9
46.9
57.2 55.8
55.3 56.8
60.3
64.7
66.2 65.9 65.5
63.1 62.5 63.8
66.8 65.3
68.3
1.1 1.5 2.7 3.6 3.6 3.8 69.7 10.1 11.6 13.4 13.8 14.2 14.7
13 14.3 12.1
48.4
48.5
39 39.2 39.4
38.5
32.9
24.9 23.1 21.4
19.7
20.7 20.9 18.5 17.7 17.7 16.9
0
10
72–73
73–74
76–77
78–79
80–81
79–80
84–85
88–89
89–90
91–92
93–94
94–95
95–96
96–97
97–98
98–99
99–00
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
% of District 5 Teachers
YEAR
% Black % Hispanic
% White
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[ 304 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
Harlem’s schools, the predilections of the city’s white teachers, and the pol-
itics of hiring practices. More broadly, the phenomenon may also have
been inuenced by changing demographics, the dynamics of District 5’s
Community School Board, as well as the power ful demand on the part of
parents for community control of the schools, which served to support and
sustain more African American and Latinx teachers.
Exclusion, Segregation, and Teacher Hiring
Over the past several de cades, New York State has earned the dubious honor
of being the state with the highest degree of school segregation; according to
researchers, the New York metropolitan area in par tic u lar reects “per sis tent
residential and educational segregation” as well as a failure to develop viable
desegregation plans for schools.22 The high proportion of Black teachers in
District 5 bears out a national historical pattern in which Black teachers are
and have been concentrated in districts (or schools) that serve high propor-
tions of students of color.23 In New York City in par tic u lar, there has been a
“strong tendency” over the twentieth century to assign teachers according to
“their ethnic and racial match” with students.24 In the early 1970s, when
only 10 percent of all New York City teachers were Black, only about
20 percent of New York City’s total populace was Black.25 At the same time,
District 5s community population was 85 percent Black, and the district
contained a much higher proportion (nearly 50 percent) of Black teachers.26
This racial imbalance across the city was the result of both white educa-
tors’ preferences and the city’s hiring and assignment policies. Well before
the decentralization period under consideration, many experienced teachers
(the vast majority of whom were white) sought to avoid working in Harlem,
citing “dicult” schools, often code for Black students living in poverty,
but also indicative of poor conditions in the area’s schools.27 Through the
early and mid-1960s, the teachersunion successfully fought mandatory
transfers of experienced teachers to schools serving low- income students
despite evidence of continued stang inadequacies in such schools.28 And
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) lobbying helped to ensure that the
1969 decentralization law would preserve aspects of the centralized hiring
system for teachers (a hedge against the splintering of union power): the
Community School Boards (CSBs) were “most restricted in their authority
over the hiring, promotion, transfer, and ring of teachers.”29
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 305 ]
Continued unequal teacher assignment patterns by race caught the at-
tention of the U.S. Oce of Civil Rights (OCR) in 1972 and, though
never as incendiary an issue as student segregation, provoked a federal in-
vestigation.30 Findings revealed that minority teachers were “grossly un-
derrepresented” across the city, and that teachers of color were channeled
to and “highly concentrated” in minority schools.31 Both Black and white
educators roundly condemned the Board of Education’s 1977 remedy, in
which teachers of color would select their teaching assignments from one
list of schools, and white teachers would choose from another, each list de-
signed to contrast with the teachers’ racial identication. Teachers’ dismay
suggested not only white teachers’ discomfort in being assigned to Black
schools. More broadly, it meant that a “statistical approach to addressing
education equity” failed to address the desire on the part of many Black
teachers togo where you are needed,as opposed to counting as just “an-
other Black face,” and further ignored Black parents’ calls for more teach-
ers who looked like them.32
Even with intervention from the OCR, race- matching patterns of
teacher assignment seem to have persisted, occurring “not only as a result
of past practice,” but well into the 1980s.33 In fact, the pattern the OCR
sought to remedy— race matching of teachers and students— came to be
seen as desirable by many Black teachers, parents, and community mem-
bers, revealing the tension between an ideal of providing Black role mod-
els for Black students and the ideal of a more desegregated distribution of
faculty across the city.34
In the de cades following the OCR agreement, Board of Education pol-
icy called for licensed teachers to be randomly assigned to schools from
the board’s central oce, as a means of ensuring teacher diversity and lling
hard- to- sta positions across the city.35 Principals had the right to refuse
up to two candidates, but were then obligated to hire the third. Beneath
this ocial system, however, Collins maintains that “insider knowledge”
and connections remained an impor tant factor in acquiring desirable place-
ments, and not only in the 1960s and 1970s.36 Studies conducted in the late
1980s and mid-1990s also support this contention, indicating that many
teachers were actually hired by principals through a much more informal
pro cess “through someone they knew in a school or distr ict or because they
were already known to the school through their experience as a student
teacher, para[professional], or substitute teacher.37 Principals realized
that if they hired unlicensed teachers through an informal network, they
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[ 306 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
could gain a far greater say in who they hired than if they followed the
formal pro cess through the central oce.
According to one researcher, teachers of color fared poorly in this sys-
tem, because they lacked contacts in these informal networks.38 Indeed,
Eulene Iniss, who worked as a principal in District 5 at one point in her
career, described encountering “a lot of nepotism, and a lot of discrimina-
tion,” in the Board of Education hierarchy.39 But some educators of color
suggested other wise. Barbara Wilson- Brooks, who was a student at Dis-
trict 5’s Public School (PS) 133in the late 1960s, remembered that a lot of
the individuals who worked in the schools “as paraprofessionals . . . teach-
ers, or teachers’ aides” lived in the community, implying membership in a
local network.40 (Nick Jur av ich agree s that paraprofes sionals came f rom the
local community, though he notes that teachers were less likely to; see chap-
ter10in this volume.) A District 4 teacher in East Harlem recalled that she
got her job in the late 1980s because “I knew somebody. . . . And then . . .
they liked me so much that they made ways for me to stay in the commu-
nity to teach.”
41 A lthough only speculation, it seems plausible that, as in
other teacher job markets across the city, District 5 principals found ways
to hire adults— paras and teachers— who belonged to a common informal
network within the community and shared impor tant beliefs about how
Harlem students should be educated.
While hiring on the basis of personal connections may have helped to
bind the community and the school, the practice was complicated by the
widespread employment of uncredentialed teachers, a chronic issue in Har-
lem. Such teachers may well have brought critical knowledge of the com-
munity to bear, but they lacked the formal qualications meant to certify
their ability to teach. For example, the East Harlem teacher who found her
job through personal contacts also acknowledged feeling “bad,” as she had
no teaching degree— only a BA in psy chol ogy—or experience when she
was hired.42 But she was hardly alone. Of those who started teaching in
New York City in 1988, for example, a staggering 88 percent began as
temporary per diem substitutes (TPDs). Some of those new teachers had
completed programs of teacher preparation and were awaiting approval for
certication, but more than three- quarters of them were “ ‘emergency’
TPDs,” with little or no training.43
Prior research makes a convincing argument for the “substantial sort-
ing of teachers across schools” in which high proportions of those uncerti-
ed and inexperienced teachers taught in districts with high percentages
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 307 ]
of minority students and teachers of color.44 The implications are stark: al-
though children of color may encounter greater numbers of teachers of
color, they are also less likely to have fully certied and experienced teach-
ers. For some, these overlaps may suggest an unfortunate and simplistic
association between teachers of color and educational prob lems in urban
schools. The real ity is more complex: there likely were some incompetent
teachers in District 5, as in other districts, but credentialing has not always
operated as an accurate proxy for teacher quality either. Indeed, principals
in District 5 likely held competing perceptions of what counted as “qual-
ity,” which included not only licensure but also identity and belonging in
the community, for example, which may have informed hiring decisions.
Taken together, these competing perceptions suggest that the dichotomy
of credentialed versus uncredentialed teachers, although valid, misses key
areas of value that mattered within the community and may have helped
produce hiring and retention of Black teachers in Harlem at a greater pace
than in other parts of New York City.
Decentralization, the Fiscal Crisis,
and Parent Dissatisfaction
Battles over community control, which culminated in the citywide 1968
teachers’ strike precipitated by events in Brooklyn’s Ocean Hill- Brownsville
demonstration district, ultimately led to the passage of the 1969 decentral-
ization legislation that divided Harlem into Districts 3, 4, and 5. Though
not necessarily reected in the letter of the law, communit y control activ-
ists had achieved some success in promoting the importance of hiring more
teachers of color in schools serving students of color. Decentralization it-
self did not necessarily cause the increase of Black teachers in District 5.
But concurrent with the enactment of decentralization, explicit consider-
ation of race had become part of hiring, whether in the guise of OCR’s
eorts to even out citywide imbalances or under the auspices of a local
school principal’s eorts to hire more African American and Latinx teach-
ers in the belief that more teachers of color would better the education of
students of color.45
Decentralization was a troubled time in Central Harlem’s District 5. Re-
ecting on those rst years of decentralization, BernardR. Giord, the
chancellor at the time, suggested that the Community School Board in Dis-
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[ 308 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
trict 5 was “beset by trou bles,” including “tangled aairs and mismanage-
ment,” from the outset.46 Yet, as the education historian Heather Lewis
points out, the rollout of decentralization occurred against the backdrop
of scal austerity, a prelude to the full- blown scal crisis of the mid-1970s
as discussed by Kim Phillips- Fein and Esther Cyna (chapter11 of this vol-
ume). The economic woes of the time severely inhibited the implementa-
tion of all reforms for education and equity, but the scal crisis profoundly
altered the teaching force. Cutbacks on the part of the city forced teacher
layos: elementary schools lost 21 percent of their faculties over two years,
and ju nior high and high schools cut 16 percent of their teachers. Novice
teachers were let go rst, so that by 1977, 85 percent of the teaching work-
force had over ve years of experience, an increase of more than 15 percent
from 1975.47 These years align with a slight downturn— about 2 percent—
in the proportion of Black teachers in District 5 that occurred between 1977
and 1980; it is plausible that many of the laid- o teachers in District 5 were
Black and, on average, less se nior in the system and thus more vulnerable
to layos.48
Beyond the retrenchments associated with the scal crisis, trou bles as-
sociated with the District 5 Community School Board also took their toll
on “educational quality and sta morale” in the schools.49 Rapid turnover
of superintendents and po liti cal inghting on the District 5 CSB made for
dicult working conditions and poorly performing schools. And although
the community appreciated the presence of Black teachers, many parents’
frustrations with the quality of Harlem’s schools centered on teachers, some
of whom they accused of being insensitive, abusive, or unwilling to edu-
cate Harlem children. The belief that District 5 served as a dumping
ground” for in eec tive or other wise objectionable teachers haunted these
years. In one 1974 case, parents at PS 46 forced out and then protested the
reinstatement of four teachers they believed were incompetent or not qual-
ied. Two of the teachers were rumored to have used corporal punish-
ment; all four (three of whom were white, one of whom was Black) had
received unsatisfactory ratings from the principal.50 As a New York Times
account reported, “One woman [from the community] asserted that P.S.
46 had been turned into a receiving center for teachers rejected elsewhere,
and she said angrily: ‘Send the garbage to Canarsie,” a white working class
community in Brooklyn.51 Conver sely, two year s later, parents and students
at Intermediate School (IS) 10 protested the removal of nine popu lar teach-
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 309 ]
ers, who were dismissed (part of the nancial cutbacks dur ing the scal
crisis) to make room for teachers with greater se niority, and the subse-
quent failure of those teachers’ replacements to show up at the school.52 By
1984, District 5 (along with other districts serving New York City’s poor-
est neighborhoods) faced a severe teacher shortage. The superintendent of
District 5 at the time, Luther Seabrook, called the situation a “disaster,”
declaring that “ these kids are getting ripped o twice— once because they’re
perceived as being in a school district incapable of properly educating them,
and secondly because they’re incapable of being served by qualied
teachers.53
Between the years of 1972 and 2000, Harlem’s District 5 presented a
stark contrast to the overall demographics of the New York City teaching
force. At a time when Black teachers made up less than 10 percent of
teachers in the city, they composed nearly half of District 5’s educators— a
proportion that would increase to nearly 70 percent by the year 2000.
Many factors appear to have played a role. The city continued to facilitate
a segregated system, in which white teachers (aided by the UFT) found
ways to opt out of teaching in Black communities like Harlem. Meanwhile,
although decentralization failed to provide Community School Boards
with the authority to hire teachers, local principals across the city outed
the formal centralized system of teacher assignment in favor of informal
hires. In District 5, this workaround aorded the hiring of a greater num-
ber of Black teachers— and may have dr iven the growth of Black teachers
in Harlem during the decentralization years— but it accompanied the
hiring of many uncertied teachers. And nally, although hiring more
Black teachers was a goal for many activist eorts in New York as well as
elsewhere from the 1960s onward, during these years, District 5 exhib-
ited both high numbers of Black teachers and continued dissatisfaction
on the part of some parents regarding school and teacher quality.
Teachers in Twenty- First-Century Harlem
Between 1972 and 2000, District 5 saw both a greater pluralit y of Black
teachers than was found across the city and a steady upward trend in the
proportion of Black teachers, but the year 2000 marked an acute turning
point. The presence of Black teachers in District 5 began a sharp decline:
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[ 310 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
over the subsequent fteen years, the proportion of Black teachers fell by
a third, and the concomitant proportions of White, Latinx, and Asian
teachers grew (gure13.3).54
This decline in Central Harlem may reect a limitation of the data: the
state does not collect information about charter school faculty in the same
way it does about district school teachers. Charter schools have grown rap-
idly in Harlem, with approximately twenty- two operating there as of
20132014.55 As charters grew, Board of Education schools held a shrink-
ing share of the school market. A shrinking population of Black teachers
now taught in a smaller number of district schools and were part of a smaller
pool of BOE teachers in Harlem. District 5’s teaching population declined
from 1,023in 2000 to 984in 2015.56 Wer e Bl ack teacher s le aving Dist rict 5
in general, or were they leaving district schools for charter schools? Al-
though the latter is certainly pos si ble, the declining portion of Black teach-
ers in District 5 between 2000 and 2015 is not an outlier. According to
New York City In de pen dent Bud get Oce data, the proportion of Black
teachers in New York City overall declined by several percentage points
between 2000 and 2012, from 21 percent to 19 percent, within a teacher
workforce that shrank by about 5 percent, representing a drop of nearly
65.1
51.1 50.3
46.2 45.8 44.4
12.5 16.5 17.4 18.8 18.4 18.7
19.2
26.2 25.7 26.8
28.1 28.7
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
2000–01 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
% of District 5 Teachers
YEAR
% Black
% Hispanic
% White
Figure13.3 Racial/ethnic d istr ibution of District 5 educators, 20002015.
Source: Information regarding the racial and ethnic prole of teachers in Harlem be-
tween 2000 and 2015 comes from NYCIBO Public School Teacher Data, which was
provided by Ray Domanico, the director at the time, upon request, September22, 2016.
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 311 ]
15 percent in the share of Black teachers in New York City.57 (Although
the decline has occurred across schools, Black educators remain more
heavi ly concentrated in high- poverty schools such as those in Harlem). This
pattern has been replicated in other large urban districts such as Cleveland,
and in cities with large charter school sectors, such as New Orleans.58
What led to this decline in the proportion of Black teachers in District
5in the twenty- rst century? Several factors, including substantial changes
in New York State’s laws regarding teacher credentialing and hiring re-
quirements as well as innovations in the city’s educational policy— which
led to district school closures and the emergence of a concentrated charter
school market— inuenced the presence of Black educators in District 5.
Interviews with Black educators oer on- the- ground perspectives regard-
ing the choices of Black teachers and the meanings they attached to their
work in District 5 during the rst fteen years of this century.
Changes in the Pipeline: Teacher Credentialing
and Hiring Policy
The twenty- rst century brought sweeping changes to public education
across the countr y, including a mix of centralized accountability mandates
by the federal government and decentralized governance structures at state
and local levels, many designed to shift control of major aspects of public
schools to external groups. Likewise, an array of somewhat contradictory
federal and state policies aimed to ratchet up the quality of teachers through
tightening requirements and standards in some cases and loosening or even
circumventing them in others. The passage of charter legislation, which
allowed for new pathways into the classroom, oers an example of “loos-
ening.” But New York State also tightened requirements. In 2001, the New
York State Regents and Commissioner Richard Mills developed a “com-
prehensive plan to improve teaching” that involved raising standards for
teacher education programs and certication.59 These elevated standards,
combined with Mills’s successful suit against the New York Board of Edu-
cation to require a certied teacher in every classroom of the state’s failing
schools, directly challenged and ultimately changed the city’s standard prac-
tice of hiring uncertied teachers.60 Over the subsequent de cade and a
half, New York City, including Harlem’s District 5, saw a consistent in-
crease in permanently certied teachers, and concomitant decrease in the
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[ 312 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
employment of teachers with temporary and provisional certication.61 Re-
searchers found that the teacher qualications gap that had characterized
New York City schools declined appreciably in just the rst ve years of
the new policies. Simultaneous to the “virtual elimination of newly hired
uncertied teacherswas “an inux of teachers with strong academic back-
grounds from alternative certication programs.” There was also some
sleight of hand, as some teachers on alternative routes to become certied
were given waivers to teach.62
The inux of teachers in alternate route programs signies a second,
signicant break with the past. New pathways to the classroom, such as
Teach F or A me r i ca and the New York City Teaching Fellows, drew a new
population of teachers, many from outside the community, into Harlem
schools.63 The proportion of new teachers who entered District 5 from al-
ternate pathways has varied—in 201213, nearly half of the new hires in
the district came from alternate paths, including the New York City Teach-
ing Fellows, but only slightly over 30 percent of the 201415 new hires
arrived by way of alternate routes— though such paths nevertheless repre-
sent a relatively substantial share of teachers hired into district schools.64
Alternate pathways to teaching grew alongside the expansion of charter
schools. Nationwide, charter schools report higher proportions of teachers
of color compared to district schools (27 percent and 16 percent, respec-
tively).65 Urban char ter schools, however, when compared to ex ist ing work-
force patterns, report lower shares of new teacher hires who are Black, de-
spite enrolling much higher proportions of Black students than district
schools.66 Therefore, urban charter schools in cities such as New York yield
wider repre sen ta tion gaps between Black students and teachers compared to
district schools.67 For example, in 2012, New York City’s charter sector had
a repre sen ta tion gap between Black students and teachers that was four times
higher than the district sector (36.9 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively).68
Several other pipeline issues may have aected the presence of Black
teachers in Harlem. Between 2002 and 2012, inuenced in part by the No
Child Left Behind legislation (which called for a “qualied teacher in
every classroom by 2006), state- level praxis exams and the National Teacher
Exam became “increasingly impor tant in teacher se lection in New York
City,” as well as in other urban districts that depended on federal fund-
ing.69 The ethnic dierence in passing rates on such assessments has been
well documented, and suggests that the tests operated as an obstacle for
teachers of color.70 In addition, the 1970 Open Admissions policy of City
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 313 ]
University of New York (the source of the lion’s share of New York City’s
teachers) had helped the city to grow its proportion of minority teachers
in the 1970s and 1980s by guaranteeing entry to almost all New York City
gradu ates and providing an aordable path to teaching. But the introduc-
tion of tuition (courtesy of the 1975 scal crisis), as well as tightening ad-
missions, new curricular requirements, and rising tuitions— trends begun
in the 1980s but accelerated after the year 2000 undercut the numbers of
eligible Black and Latinx candidates.71
The decline of Black teachers may be more than a pipeline issue, how-
ever. Scholars have pointed out that retention is critical, and is a prob lem
particularly for teachers of color.72 Nationally, minority teachers are hired
at a higher proportional rate than other teachers, but they are also leaving
the profession at higher rates than other teachers, both voluntarily and in-
voluntarily.73 In 2012, for example, the rate of involuntary turnover was
much higher for Black teachers than for all other teachers, a phenomenon
directly related to “school closings in urban districts due both to declining
enrollments and sanctions” (the latter targeted to underperforming schools);
Black teachers who choose to leave (“voluntar y leavers”) often do so out
of dissatisfaction with job conditions, rather than (as with non- Black teach-
ers) personal or family reasons.74
Local data show that a growing proportion of recent new hires in Dis-
trict 5 are Black teachers: in 2010, only 18 percent of new teachers hired in
District 5 were Black; by 2014, 30 percent were.75 But of all new teachers
hired in 2011, less than 50 percent were still teaching in District 5 four
years later. About a quarter of those teachers who left went to teaching
positions elsewhere in New York City, and the remaining quarter repre-
sented those who were no longer employed by the New York City Depart-
ment of Education. If Harlem follows national trends, Black teachers may
well have turned over in the district at greater rates than other demo-
graphics, contributing to their declining share of the teaching force there.
Changes in Educational Policy: Charters and Choice
The par tic u lar strug gles changed over time, but Harlem residents main-
tained a strong, if often thwarted, desire for access to high- quality educa-
tion for their children. Looking at the last few de cades of the twentieth
century, it becomes clear that New York City public schools’ continued
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[ 314 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
apathy (or even re sis tance) toward responding to the community’s demands
helped sustain the activism for educational self- determination that emerged
in the 1960s and ultimately laid the groundwork for many twenty- rst-
century developments. In part a result of this activism, as demonstrated
through the story of Babette Edwards (see chapter11in this volume), school
choice and the development and expansion of charter schools fundamen-
tally transformed the educational landscape of District 5 and reshaped its
teaching force.
In New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg achieved mayoral
control of the schools in 2002, new policies sought to standardize curricula
and other practices across schools, while others devolved control to indi-
vidual school sites in return for outcomes- focused accountability. The
Bloomberg administration’s policies showed a preference for market- based
reforms expressly designed to foster choice and competition between
schools, and school choice and charter schools emerged as two central strat-
egies of the Bloomberg era. Under the tenure of the Bloomberg appointee
Chancellor Joel Klein, and in the wake of New York’s 1998 law authoriz-
ing charter schools, market reformers who had long abhorred educational
bureaucracy could nally restructure the nancial, orga nizational, and
human resource par ameters of the city’s public schools. But charter schools
also drew an enthusiastic audience from among parents and community
groups in disenfranchised communities, where the strug gle to access bet-
ter educational options for their children carried into the twenty- rst
century. Activists such as Babette Edwards turned to charters to create pub-
lic schools better aligned with the educational values of the community.
Harlem went on to become a chief base for charter expansion, accounting
for nearly two- thirds of Manhattan’s charter schools in the subsequent
de cade.76
Although there is a lack of centralized data about charter school teach-
ers, including their racial composition, in New York, some evidence sug-
gests that the nascent sector suered from an underrepre sen ta tion of teach-
ers of color, particularly Black teachers, that was more severe than in
district schools.77 However, we know little about whether Black teachers
were more prevalent in Harlem’s charter schools than in charters in other
areas of the city; in other words, it is not clear whether charters were rep-
licating the uneven distributions of teachers found in district schools, and
whether Harlem charters followed or diverged from other charter schools
in the city, state, or countr y.
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 315 ]
Studies featuring interviews with teachers in charter schools in Harlem
suggest that early charters may have been havens for Black teachers, par-
ticularly those interested in establishing long- desired alternative educational
environments.78 For example, the African American teachers Derek An-
drews and Marvin Humphrey began their careers in one of Harlem’s rst
charter schools, which were founded by community- based organ izations
with parents and teachers on the boards of trustees.79 Recalling his deci-
sion to work in a small stand- alone charter school in 2000, Humphrey de-
scribed a longing for a sense of community, “I’m from Harlem. I was born
in Harlem. I went to school in Harlem. I love this community, and I love
the rapport I have with people in the community.80 Humphrey’s charter
school was housed in a building funded by a community- based organ-
ization. The school sought to provide a exible learning environment for
students, promoted a keen awareness of cultural heritage, used project- based
learning, and leveraged community resources, such as parks or museums,
for educational experiences.
Humphrey’s school was emblematic of early Harlem charter schools.
However, a new wave of charter schools would soon emerge, with di er-
ent curricular priorities. In 2007, legislators passed an amendment that
raised the initial limit on the number of charters that could operate in New
York from 100 to 200. In 2010, in an eort to secure federal grants from
President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, legislators again lifted
the cap, approving authorizations for more than 200 additional charters and
ushering in a second phase of charter expansion. With the new caps, char-
ter authorizers anticipated more than 400 charter schools, with approxi-
mately 136 already in operation in the city by 2012, primarily located in
three neighborhoods: Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx.81
At this new scale, both the sponsoring organ izations and the curricular
emphasis of many charters changed. By 2008 this new crop of char ters
showed up in Harlem. These were schools founded by high- prole national
charter management organ izations (CMOs), which coordinated operations
and curricular programming in multiple schools from central oces in the
city by way of regional man ag ers and prominent executives.82 Harlem
became a particularly intensive site of charter expansion. Manhattan con-
tained six community school districts with approximately fty- nine char-
ter schools in operation in 201213; those districts encompassing Harlem
housed the largest share of those charters (approximately forty- four), with
Central Harlem alone accommodating the greatest saturation (approxi-
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[ 316 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
mately twenty- two charters).83 Stand- alone charters tied to community
groups, such has Humphrey’s school, came to represent a minority of the
charter population, as nearly two- thirds of all the Harlem charters were
managed by CMOs in 201314; in fact, just three CMOs managed approxi-
mately half of all charter schools in the neighborhood.84
Charter expansion coincided with high- stakes accountability mandates,
which included interventionist “turnaround eorts to improve low-
performing schools. Such eorts resulted in the closing of scores of district
schools across the city. Since 2002, 140 out of roughly 1,800 New York
City schools were closed, especially in epicenters of charter saturation such
as Harlem. In similar situations in New Orleans and other cities, district
school closures helped depress Black teacher employment, as these teach-
ers fared less well in the expanding charter sector.85
The teacher recruitment pool for CMO charters was also distinct: many
teachers came from out of state via alternative teacher certication pro-
grams, such as Teach For Amer i ca, and expressed short- term interests in
teaching, with an eye toward business, law, leadership, or social entrepre-
neurship in the longer run. Teachers in CMO charters were rarely unionized
and worked as at- will employees, setting the stage for top- down decision
making by leaders and tenuous relationships between CMO man ag ers and
teachers.86 Shawn Lewis, an African American male teacher who taught
in one of Harlem’s charter schools, strug gled with CMO man ag ers and pri-
vate donors: “The idea from donors was that ‘we are giving your school all
of this money, so where are our results?’ But when money came, the qual-
ity of instruction became diluted. . . . It was suddenly about quick, short re-
sults.”87 Lewis eventually left his CMO charter for a stand- alone charter
school, which he described as a better match for his ideas about teaching
and learning: “My [old charter school] wasn’t really about developing the
whole child. They were about ‘results.’ That’s it.”88
Several CMO charters in Harlem had some of the highest teacher turn-
over rates in the city and state. Turnover for all teachers (district and char-
ter) in the state was 11 percent in 201516, but 24 percent of District 5
(district and charter) teachers turned over from 201516 to 201617. The
rise in the number of charter schools in District 5 likely exacerbated the
district’s already high turnover rate, as nearly all charter schools reported
turnover rates above the state average in 201516. One large CMO, in par-
tic u lar, had three schools in District 5 with turnover rates that doubled the
district’s average in 201516, including Success Acad emy 2 (56 percent
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 317 ]
turnover), Success Acad emy 4 (48 percent turnover), and Success Acad emy
5 (65 percent turnover).89
Some Black educators in Harlem, however, were drawn to its new char-
ter sector, particularly those who had worked in district schools and expe-
rienced years of overcrowding and inadequate resources. Theresa Sanders,
for example, is an African American teacher who left her district school—
where “ just to get a ream of paper was gold!”—to work as a third- grade
teacher in one of Harlem’s largest chains of CMO charters; as she recalled,
“The materials alone were enough to leave my district school.”90 Sanders’s
experience is not farfetched. According to studies of national CMOs, many
organ izations enjoy signicant private investment, yielding upward of
$5,700in additional per pupil spending (on average). In Sanders’s charter
school, private donations likely pushed total funding beyond 30 percent of
average per pupil funding in the city’s district schools.91 Despite the lar-
gesse, however, Sanders described the same kind of strug gles that Lewis
identied, including a lack of autonomy and decision- making authority
about how to teach, particularly in the face of power ful donors and a largely
white cadre of central man ag ers: “I mean it’s not that many of us [Blacks]
in the CMO. I could prob ably count on one hand how many Black people
there are. . . . And they [CMO man ag ers] go about this whole bullying tac-
tic with teachers. Man ag ers try to bully teachers into doing what they [the
man ag ers] want . . . but they should want people to do things because they
[ people] see the value in it, not because they [man ag ers] tell us to do it.”92
Limited by weak teacher protections (CMO teachers are usually at- will
workers and rarely have tenure or belong to unions with a collective bar-
gaining agreement), Theresa Sanders ultimately left her charter school in
Harlem to seek work in schools where working conditions, as she described,
were less rigid and hierarchical.
Unlike Sanders, some educators in Harlem’s new charter sector left their
schools involuntarily. Anthony Charles, an African American teacher who
worked as a math coach in a CMO charter school in District 5, noted that
he was “let go” (a nonrenewal of his teaching contract) unexpectedly in
the summer before his fourth year with the school. “I worked for that CMO
for three and half years, and my dismissal took two minutes.”93 Charles
attributed his layo to philosophical dierences between teachers, leaders,
and man ag ers: “The school had a great reputation and many of our board
members were famous millionaires and billionaires, but they operated from
a business standpoint. So they were only looking at children’s test scores or
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[ 318 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
results, and to them teachers were either getting results or not getting re-
sults.”94 After his termination, Charles questioned the results- driven strat-
egies of those who managed the new schools in Harlem, expressing par-
tic u lar concerns about their apparent indierence to broad social and
cultural curricula and their inuence on students in Harlem: “Educators
are not supposed to make students feel as though historically their people
don’t function on the level as another group of people within the same na-
tion. We shouldn’t make some groups feel inferior . . . but kids in Harlem
are in just that sort of predicament.”95
In the rst de cade and a half of the twenty- rst century, changes in cre-
dentialing and hiring requirements, the steady closure of district schools,
the spread of market- driven charters managed by private groups, and the
visions of education espoused by many of those charters fundamentally in-
uenced who taught in Harlem. Taken together, these reforms aected
teachers dierently, depending on teachers’ preparation pathway, philoso-
phies of teaching, and beliefs about the educational needs of Black and
Latinx children and children in Harlem, as well as the blunt force of power-
ful groups with unpre ce dented autonomy to shape teachers’ classroom
practices and hire or re teachers accordingly. U ltimately, compared to
earlier trends, education reforms in the twenty- rst century adversely af-
fected the recruitment and retention of Black teachers in Harlem, and white
teachers rebounded in number and proportion in the same period. In par-
tic u lar, the expansion of CMO charter schools with hierarchical working
conditions, weak labor protections, alternative teacher preparation pro-
grams that rely on out- of- state hires, and an indierence to culturally in-
clusive curricula all presented clear challenges for Black teachers, many of
whom may have nurtured more locally rooted, historically informed vi-
sions of education in Harlem. Though community- based visions emerged
in some early charters in Harlem, these visions (and the teachers who en-
listed to carr y out these plans) were peripheral by 2015, as entrepreneurs,
managerial elites, and philanthropists took charge of Harlem’s new educa-
tional landscape and its new pool of teachers.
The changing racial and ethnic prole of teachers in Harlem between the
late 1960s and 2015 was indelibly shaped by race, policy, and larger social
forces, but also by competing ideals of teacher quality and educational op-
portunity and, nally, by Black teachers’ own commitments, philosophies
of education and educational equity, and social networks. Harlem’s social
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 319 ]
location as a community historically segregated and circumscribed by in-
equities in resources, yet also emboldened by strug gles for po liti cal power
and cultural repre sen ta tion, gave rise to both opportunities and constraints.
Over time, the teaching force in Harlem has reected an unequal distri-
bution of teachers with formal qualications. Yet the Harlem teaching force
has also included a self- conscious cadre of teachers with social justice com-
mitments and alternative visions for a culturally inclusive learning envi-
ronment; and it has encompassed a critical mass of community members
called to participate through their local social networks.
From the postwar period through the twentieth century, white teachers
balked at Harlem teaching assignments, and racism still narrowed the path-
ways to teacher preparation and certication for Black teachers. The result
was a near- chronic teacher shortage. Consequently, as early as the mid-
1950s, “a greater proportion of substitutes” was hired in Harlem than in “the
more favored parts of the city.96 The 1955 report, The Status of the Public
School Education of Negro and Puerto Rican Children in the City, gave language
and salience to this discrepancy, and helped to introduce “teacher quality”
as a form of inequity between Black and white schools.97 The call for better
teachers in Harlem between the 1940s and early 1960s generally associated
“qual it ywith tra ining, licensing, ex perience, or “special qual ications.”98
The later 1960s and 1970s, however, saw increasing demands for a di er ent
form of quality, in the form of Black and Latinx teachers who could provide
role models for children of color.99 Layos of the 1970s complicated these
demands, delivering a far more se nior teaching force in Harlem, but at the
expense of less experienced teachers of color who lost their jobs. By the
early 1990s, with little appreciable improvement in District 5s per for mance,
critics suggested that hiring minority teachers was not a panacea and that
“quality” was more elusive than the experience, academic credentials, and
licensing privileged by the New York City Board of Education, on the one
hand, or simplistic race matching, on the other.100 Quality might include a
“talent for identifying with Black children,” or a sensitivity to the lan-
guage and values of Black children” and, as former Brooklyn superinten-
dent Jerome Harris asserted, this quality may “come in all colors.101
The lack of consensus around what criteria dene teacher quality con-
tinues to devil the education profession. Meanwhile, Harlem has become
a poster child for new conceptualizations of teacher and educational quality.
Our data show that the introduction of new players and variables beginning
in the twenty- rst century essentially altered who teaches in Harlem. But
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[ 320 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
these innovations— the stricter credentialing requirements, alternate
routes to teaching, new models of school governance, and di er ent work-
ing conditions inside schools as well as curricular and pedagogical priori-
ties tied to accountability and market- based competition charter schools—
served to restructure denitions of teacher quality as well. Indeed,
alternate routes and charter schools have contributed to new forms of cre-
dentialism: today, for example, many charter schools in Harlem recruit
teachers who may not have fullled formal teacher preparation require-
ments, but who do well on the standardized competency tests and are
oriented toward raising student achievement (as mea sured by standardized
tests). Yet such recruits are usually short- lived— they leave teaching after
only a few years— and are expensive to the district in terms of churn. More-
over, most of these teachers are not only outsiders to the community and
its culture, they are also novices, and thus re- create the per sis tent prob lem
of concentrated inexperienced teachers in District 5.
Demographic changes among those who taught in Central Harlem,
along with debates about teacher quality, played out against the tumultu-
ous backdrop of the community control movement, decentralization, and
mayoral control. They occurred in tandem with the city’s strug gle over
time to adjust its teacher assignment policies to comply with federal man-
dates from the Oce of Civil Rights, to fulll local community desires
for more teachers of color, and to meet increased state requirements in the
twenty- rst century. And they have run alongside the introduction of new
forms of schooling and means of procuring teachers, which have taken hold
most rmly as ways of educating poor children of color. Yet despite all the
change and innovation, one outcome that has remained elusive through
these years is the development of a stable, diverse, cadre of teachers who
are well- prepared to teach District 5 students.
Notes
1. According to one report, The collection of racial/ethnic data on the school popula-
tion of New York State was initiated in 1961 with a census of public elementary schools.
Since 1966 such information has been collected annually from all public elementary
and secondary schools and is now a part of the Department’s Basic Educational Data
System. The information is used wit hin the Education Department to provide a longi-
tudinal rec ord of school integr ation throughout the state. See University of the State
of New York (hereafter USNY), Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Public School Students and
Sta, 19721973 (Albany, N.Y.: State Education Department Information Center on
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 321 ]
Education, 1973). These reports furnished data for the years from 1972 to 2000 featured
in this chapter. Information regarding the racial and ethnic prole of teachers in Har-
lem between 2000 and 2015 comes from New York City In de pen dent Bud get Oce
(hereafter NYCIBO) Publ ic School Teacher Data, which was provided by Ray
Domanico, the director at the time, upon request, September22, 2016.
2. The earliest report we located that broke out racial/ethnic prole data by Communit y
School Districts in New York City refers to the 197273 school year. We could not
locate a complete version of the 197172 document; and the 197071 report provided
only aggregated racial/ethnic prole data for all of New York City.
3. An unpop u lar legislative compromise between community control advocates and
forces of centralization, the law established thirty- two community school districts in
New York City, each with its own elected school board, though the central Board of
Education maintained impor tant authority, including the hiri ng of teachers. See
Heather Lew is, New York City Public Schools from Brownsville to Bloomberg: Community
Control and Its Legacy (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013).
4. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007
[1903]).
5. Michael Fu ltz, “African American Teachers in the South, 18901940: Powerlessness
and the Ironies of Expectations and Protests, History of Education Quarterly 35
(1995): 4012 2; Ron ald But cha rt, Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning, and the
Strug gle for Black Freedom, 18611876 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
2010); and Sonya Ramsey, Reading, Writing, and Segregation: A Century of Black Women
Tea cher s i n N ash vill e (Urba na: University of Ill inois Press, 2008).
6. Michele Foster, Black Teachers on Teaching (New York: New Press, 1997); Vanessa Siddle
Walker, Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated
South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Michael Fultz, “Teacher
Tra ini ng a nd A frican Amer ican Educ atio n in the So uth,” Journal of Negro Education 64
(1995): 196210; David Cecelski, Along Freedom Road: Hyde County, North Carolina and
the Fate of Black Schools in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1994); Ad am Fairclou gh , A Class of T heir Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007); Linda Perkins, “The History of
Blacks in Teaching: Growth and Decline Within the Profession,” in American Teachers:
Histories of a Profession at Work, ed. Donald Warren (New York: Macmillan, 1989),
34469; and Dav idson Douglas, Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle Over Northern School
Segregation, 18651954 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 20 05).
7. Stephanie Shaw, What a Wo man Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers
During the Jim Crow Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Ramsey, Read-
ing, Writing, and Segregation.
8. Melanie Acosta, Michele Foster, and Diedre Houchen, ‘Why Seek the Living Among
the Dead?’ African American Pedagogical Excellence: Exemplar Practice for
Teac he r Ed uc at io n, ” Journal of Teacher Education (March2018), accessed March20, 2018,
https:// doi - org . proxy . library . csi . cuny . edu /
10 . 1177 / 0022487118761881.
9. Foster, “Constancy, Connectedness, and Constraints,” 1991; Vanessa Siddle Walker,
“Valued Segregated Schools for African A merican Children in the South, 19631969:
A Review of Common Themes and Cha racteristics,” Review of Educational Research 70
(200 0): 25370; and Fairclough, Class of Their Own. See also Shaw, What a Woman
Ought to Be, 218.
10. Judith Kafka, In Search of a Grand Narrative: The Turbulent Histor y of Teaching,” in
Handbook of Research on Teaching, ed. Drew Gitomer and Courtney Bell (Washington,
D.C.: Am erica n Educational Research Assoc iation, 2 016), 85.
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[ 322 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
11. Generally, the proportion of Black teachers in urban centers was and is higher than the
proportion of Black teachers nationally. Christina Collins, “Ethnically Qualied”: Race,
Merit, and the Se lection of Urban Teachers, 19201980 (New York: Teachers College
Press, 2011), 7.
12. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied,” 4, 7.
13. New Yorks increase was contrary to national trends, but in line with what was hap-
pening in other urban areas. USNY, Racial/Ethnic Distribution, 197273, 73; USNY,
Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Public School Students and Sta, 19992000 (Albany, N.Y.:
Oce of Information, Reporting and Technology Ser vices, 2001), 70; and Collins,
“Ethnically Qualied, 178.
14. See, for example, Lewis, New York City Public Schools, 104, 106; and Dionne Danns,
Something Better for Our Children: Black Organ ization in the Chicago Public Schools, 1963
1971 (New York: Routledge, 2002). It is also worth noting that these schools were not
segregated by law, but by generations of public policy choices that had the same eect.
Regarding multiple perspectives of Black teachers, see Daniel Perlstein, Justice, Justice:
School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2004); for the emer-
gence of class divisions, see Kaf ka, “In Search of a Grand Narrative”; Foster, Black
Tea c he r s; and Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Po liti cal Economy of Urban Educational Re-
form (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997).
15. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, “An Analy sis of the Prob lem of Disappear ing Black Educa-
tors,” Elementary School Journal 88 (M ay1988): 504; D. Coursen , Women and Minorities in
Administration (Arlington, VA: National Association of Elementary School Pr incipals,
1975); and Foste r, Black Teachers.
16. LindaC. Tillman, Unintended Consequences? The Impact of the Brown v. Board of
Education Decision on the Employment St atus of Black Educators,” Education and Urban
Society 36 (May2004): 282; and Foster, Black Teachers.
17. Tillman, Unintended Consequences?, 286; M.J. Hudson and B.J. Holmes, Miss-
ing Teacher s, Impaired Communities: The Unanticipated Consequences of Brown v.
Board of Education on the African American Teaching Force at the Precollegiate Level,”
Journal of Negro Education 63 (1994): 38893; and Jack Dougherty, ‘That’s When We
Were Marching for Jobs’: Black Teachers and the Early Civil Rights Movement in
Milwaukee,History of Education Quarterly 38 (Summer 1998): 12141.
18. SamuelB. Ethridge, Impact of the 1954 Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education Deci-
sion on Black Educators,” Negro Educational Review 30 (October1979): 21732;
National Education Association, Status of the American Public School Teacher, 198586
(Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1987); and Sabrina Hope King,
“The Limited Presence of African- American Teachers, Review of Educ ational
Research 63 (Summer 1993): 12425.
19. RichardM. Ingersol l, Elizabeth Merrill, Daniel Stuckey, and Gregory Collins, “Seven
Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching ForceUpdated October2018,” CPRE
Research Reports, accessed January 30, 2019, https:// repository . upenn . edu / cpre
_ researchreports / 108. The trend for Black t eacher repre sen ta tion diers from that of
minority teachers (Black, Hispan ic, Asian and Paci c Islander, American Indian, and
multiracial), which grew from 12 percent in 1987 to 17 percent of the teaching force in
2012. See Albert Shanker Institute, The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education
(Washington, D.C.: Albert Shanker Institute, 2015), 2.
20. These numbers refer to elementary and middle school teachers: not only did District 5
have no high schools, high schools in New York City belonged to a separate district
altogether.
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 323 ]
21. The state- dened categories for teachers’ raci al/ethnic identities are problematic
interms of how those identities were dened and how the denitions changed
overthe years. Available repor ts from the early 1970s included categories of Black;
Spanish surnamed American; American Indian and Orienta l; and Other. (Other
inthis case was mea nt to include the defau lt of white.) By the 19761977 repor t and
going forward, these categories had changed to Black (not Hispanic origin); His-
panic; American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacic Islander; and White (not
Hispanic origin), wh ich quite likely would have resu lted in categori zat ion of
someindividuals that diered from where they would have been slotted in earlier
reports.
22. Gary Oreld, quoted in SusannaW. Paum and Theodore Abramson, “Teacher As-
signment, Hiring and Preparation: Minorit y Teachers in New York City,” Urban Re-
view 22 (March1990): 19. See Gary Oreld (with F. Monfort and R. George), School
Segregation in the 1980s: Trends in the States and Metropolitan Areas (Chicago: National
School Desegregation Proj ect, 1987); and John Kucsera with Gary Oreld, New York
State’s Extreme School Segregation: In equality, Inaction and a Damaged Future (Los Ange-
les: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, 2014).
23. Tillman, (Un)intended Consequences?; and Erica Frankenberg, The Segregation
of American Teachers,” Education Policy Analy sis Archives 17 ( January2008), accessed
September13, 2017, http:// epaa . asu . edu / epaa / v17n1 / .
24. Paum and Abramson, Teacher Assignment, 21.
25. U.S. Census Bureau, Race (SE:T12), 1970. Prepared by Social Explorer, accessed Sep-
tember26, 2017, https:// www . socialexplorer . com / tables / RC1970 / R12193272.
26. Steven Manson, Jonathan Schroeder, David Van Riper, and Steven Ruggles, IPUMS
National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 12.0 [Database] (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 2017), http:// doi . org / 10 . 18128 / D050 . V12 . 0. Prepared by
John Fleming, August4, 2017.
27. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 1067.
28. See Lewis, New York City Public Schools, 19.
29. Lewis, 5759. Before decentralization, the U FT sought to consolidate its power by
resisting central board authority over teachers’ work; however, after 1969, the UFT
preferred to situate control over key functions such as hir ing within the central board.
Albert Shanker, the UFT president, argued for this conguration to protect against the
inuence of patronage or racial, ethnic, or religious bias on hir ing, and to ensure an
“equ itable dist ribut ion of teachers” among city schools; not inc ide ntally, t hi s arrange -
ment also helped to preserve union power to bargain with a sing le entity rather than
the local districts. The Community School Boards did gain one mea sure of exibility
through the law: they were perm itted to hire candidates who passed the National
Teac he r Ex am r at he r th a n t he c it y’ s e xams to tea ch i n lo w- perform ing elementary and
middle schools. See Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 121.
30. See Michael Rebell and A.R. Block, Equity and Education: Federal Civil Rights Enforce-
ment in the New York City School System (P ri nce ton, N.J.: Prince ton University Press,
1985).
31. Jonna Perrillo, Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity
(Chic ago: Un iversity of Chicago Pres s, 2012), 160.
32. Perrillo, Uncivil Rights, 162.
33. Paum and Abramson, Teacher Assignment, 29.
34. This tension is documented in research that promotes the importance of Black teachers
for Black students as well as lit er a ture that advocates fairer distribution of teachers of
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[ 324 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
color. See J.A. Grissom and C. Redding, “Discretion and Disproport iona lit y:
Explaining the Underrepre sen ta tion of High Achieving Students of Color in Gifted
Programs,” AERA Open 2 (2016): 125; C.A. Lindsay and C.M.D. Hart, “Teacher
Race and School Discipline: Are Students Suspended Less Often When They Have a
Teac he r of t he Sa me Ra ce ?” Education Next 17 (2017): 16; as well as, for instance,
Rebell a nd Block, Equity and Education, 1985.
35. Donna Tapper, Swimming Upstream: The First- Year Experiences of Teachers Working in New
York City Public Sc hools (New York: Educational Priorities Panel, 1995), 1. The author
argues that neither of those functions— getting teachers into hard- to- sta schools and
ensuring teacher diversity— was served by the centralized system.
36. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 121.
37. Tapper, Swimming Upstream, 1.
38. Tapper, 1.
39. Interview with Eulene Iniss, conducted by Terrenda White, March20, 2015.
40. Barbara Wilson- Brooks, “Barbara Wilson- Brooks Oral History,conducted within
the Harlem Education History Proj ect, harlemeducationhistory.library. columbia . edu.
41. Louise Burwell, “Louise Burwell Oral Histor y,” conducted within the Harlem Educa-
tion History Proj ect, harlemeducationhistory.library. columbia . edu.
42. Burwell, “Louise Burwell Oral History.”
43. Paum and Abramson, “Teacher Assignment,” 26.
44. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah Rocko, and James Wycko,
“The Nar rowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualications and Its Implications
for Student Achievement in High- Poverty Schools,” Journal of Policy Analy sis and Man-
agement 27 (2008): 793.
45. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 135.
46. Leonard Buder, Schools See Hope for District Five, New York Times, December26,
1974.
47. Lewis, New York City Public Schools, 74.
48. USNY, Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Public School Students and Sta, 19761977 (Albany,
N.Y.: State Education Depar tment Information Center on Education, 1977); USNY,
Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Public School Students and Sta, 19781979 (Albany, N.Y.:
State Education Department Information Center on Education, 1979); USNY, Racial/
Ethnic Distribution of Public School Students and Sta, 19791980 (Alba ny, N.Y.: State Edu-
cation Department Information Center on Education, 1980); and USNY, Racial/Ethnic
Distribution of Public School Students and Sta, 19801981 (Albany, N.Y.: State Education
Department Information Center on Education, 1981).
49.School War Holdout, New York Times editor ial, November21, 1978.
50. Leonard Buder, 4 Teachers Return to Jobs Despite Parents Protests, New York Times,
October18, 1974.
51. Leonard Buder, Parent Protest in Harlem Keeps 1,000 Out of School, New York
Times, October19, 1974.
52. Lena Williams, Harlem School Boycott Threatened, New York Times, October13,
1976.
53. Joyce Purnick, “City’s Poor Districts Are Hit Hard by a Severe Shortage of Teachers,”
New York Times, Februar y29, 1984.
54. NYCIBO, Oce Public School Teacher Data, provided by Ray Domanico upon
request, September22, 2016.
55. NYCIBO, School Ind icators for New York City Charter Schools, 201314 School
Year, Ne w Yor k, J ul y2015, 6, ac ce ss ed Ju ne 12, 2019 , ht t ps :// ibo . nyc . ny . us / iboreports
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 325 ]
/ school - indicators - for - new - york - city - charter - schools - 2013 - 2014 - school - year - july
- 2015 . pdf.
56. NYCIBO, Oce Public School Teacher Data.
57. NYCIBO, “Demographics and Work Exper ience: A Statistica l Portrait of New York
City’s Public School Teachers,” Schools Brief (May2014): 34.
58. Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity, 2. These data refer to the combined
sectors of charter and district school teachers.
59. Nicholas Michelli, “The Politics of Teacher Education: Lessons from New York City,
Journal of Teacher Education 56 (May/June2005): 236.
60. Michelli, Politics of Teacher Education, 237.
61. New York State Depar tment of Educat ion, “Basic Educational Data System (BEDS)
Personnel Master File (PMF) Statistical Runs,” generated by Lauren Fellers, using
PMF Standard Statistical Runs, 20012016, accessed January24, 2017, http:// www . p12
. nysed . gov / irs / pmf / .
62. Boyd etal., Narrowing Gap, 815.
63. Teach For Amer i ca (started in 1989) and the New York Cit y Teaching Fellows
(star ted i n 2000) are alternate route programs that sought to place gradu ates of el ite
inst itutions of higher education (Teach For America) or professionals from other
elds (New York City Teaching Fellows) into classrooms quickly, circumventing the
trad itional cert icat ion pro cess.
64. NYCIBO, Public School Teacher Data.
65. National Center for Education Statistics, Characteristics of Public and Private Elemen-
tary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States: Results From the 201112
Schools and Stang Survey, 2013, accessed June12, 2019, https:// nces . ed . gov / pubs2013
/ 2013314 . pdf.
66. Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Charter School Growth and Replication,
2013, accessed September16, 2014, https:// credo . stanford . edu / research - reports . html; E.
Frankenberg, G. Siegel- Hawley, and J. Wang, Choice Without Equity: Charter School Seg-
regation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards (Los Angeles: Civil Rights Project/
Proyecto Derechos Civiles, 2010).
67. Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity.
68. Albert Shanker Institute.
69. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 179.
70. FreemanA. Hrabowski III and MavisG. Sander s, “Increasing Racial Diversity in the
Teacher Workforce: One Universit y’s Approach,” Thought and Action (Winter 2015):
10116.
71. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 178. See also DavidE. Lavin and David Hyllegard,
Changing the Odds: Open Admissions and the Life Chances of the Disadvantaged (New Ha-
ven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996); and Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier,
Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2016).
72. Richard Ingersoll a nd H. May, “Recruitment, Retention and the Minority Teacher
Shortage,” Consortium for Policy Research in Education, CPR E Research Report #R R-
69, 2011; Desiree Carver- Thomas and Linda Darl ing- Hammond, Teacher Turnover:
Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It ( Palo A lto, Calif.: Learning Policy In-
stitute, 2017), 2023; and Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity.
73. Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity, 2.
74. Carver- Thomas and Darling- Hammond, “Recruitment,” 23.
75. NYCIBO, Public School Teacher Data.
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[ 326 ] SETBACKS AND STRUCTURAL ALTERNATIVES
76. Of the forty- ve charter schools in Manhattan in 201314, thirty were located in the
Harlem neighborhood (including CSDs 3, 4, and 5). NYCIBO, School Indicators, 38
77. Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity.
78. Terrenda Corisa White, Culture, Power, and Pedagogy in Market- D riven Times:
Embedded Case Studies of Teaching in Four Charter Schools in Harlem, NY” (PhD
Diss., Columbia University, 2014).
79. These teachers’ names as well as those of all subsequent teachers who describe their
experiences in Harlem’s charter sector are pseudonyms.
80. Interview with Marvin Humphrey, conducted by Terrenda White, January9, 2013.
81. New York City Charter School Center, Charter School Facts 201213, New York De-
partment of Education, 2012, accessed February28, 2019, http:// www . nycchar terschools
. org / sites / default / les / resources / charter _ school _ facts _ 082912 . pdf.
82. NYC Charter School Center, The State of the Charter Sector (New York: NYC Depart-
ment of Education, 2012), accessed Februar y28, 2019, http:// www . nyccharterschools
. org / sites / default / les / resources / state - of - the - sector - 2012 . pdf.
83. NYCIBO, School Indicators, 38.
84. Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Charter School Growth and Replication
(Stanford, Calif.: CREDO, 2013), accessed September16, 2014, https:// credo . stanford
. edu / research - reports . html.
85. Albert Shanker Institute, State of Teacher Diversity, 19.
86. J. Golann, “The Paradox of Success at a No- Excuses School,” Sociology of Education 88
(2015): 10319; M.Q. McShane and J. Hateld, “Mea sur ing Diversity in Charter
School Oerings,” July2015, American Enterprise Institute, accessed July28, 2015,
http:// www .
aei . org / wp - content/uploads/2015/07/Measuring- Diversity- in- Charter
- School- Oerings.pdf.
87. Interview with Shawn Lewis, conducted by Terrenda White, July26 2013.
88. Interview with Shawn Lewis.
89. New York State Education Department, New York School Report Card, 201516,
Success Acad emy Charter School Harlem 2, accessed June12, 2019, https:// data . nysed
. gov / reportcard . php ? instid = 800000061092&year = 2016&createreport = 1&teacherqua l
= 1&tea che rt urnover = 1; Succe ss Acad emy Charter School Harlem 4, accessed June12,
2019, https:// data . nysed . gov / reportcard . php ? instid = 800000061093&year= 2016&create
report = 1& te acherqua l = 1&teachert ur nover = 1; Success Acad emy Char ter School
Harlem 5, accessed June 12, 2019, https:// data . nysed . gov / reportcard . php ? instid
= 800000067671&year = 2016&createreport = 1&tea che rqual = 1& teachertu rnover = 1.
90. Interview with Theresa Sanders, conducted by Terrenda White, July26, 2013.
91. For example, based on the data about KIPP charter schools and their revenue, we esti-
mate that per pupil expenditure in Harlem’s CMO schools was nearly $23,000, about
30 percent more than district per pupil funding in 2013.
92. Interview with Shawn Lewis.
93. Interview with Anthony Charles, conducted by Terrenda White, January10, 2013.
94. Interview with Anthony Charles.
95. Interview with Anthony Charles.
96. Benjamin Fine, New Policy Asked on Teacher Posts, New York Times, December6,
1956.
97. Public Education Association, The Status of the Public School Education of Negro and Puerto
Rican Children in the City (New York: Public Education Association of New York City,
October1955); and Perillo, Uncivil Rights, 86.
98. Kenneth Clark, Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power (New York: Harper and Row,
1965), 138.
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TEACHING HARLEM [ 327 ]
99. Collins, “Ethnically Qualied, 98, 124 ; a nd Re solut ion by D ist ri ct 5 , n .d. after June1968,
United Federation of TeachersSubject, box 17, F476, cited in Collins, 124.
1 0 0 . J o s e p h B e r g e r , P e s s i m i s m i n A i r a s S c h o o l s T r y A r m a t i v e A c t i o n , New York Times,
Februar y27, 1990; and Joseph Berger, “McCall Will Push for More Minority Teach-
ers,” New York Times, June28, 1991.
1 0 1 . B e r g e r , “ P e s s i m i s m i n A i r . ”
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