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Ladson-Billings examines, ‘What if we had more black teachers?’

January 19, 2015

UW-Madison’s Gloria Ladson-Billings took the time earlier this month to share her thoughts with Education Week blogger Larry Ferlazzo, who was collecting opinions on the question, “What impact can having more teachers of color have on our schools and what needs to be done to make it happen?”

Ladson-Billings holds the Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and is a professor with the departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Policy Studies, and Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Her response was contained in Part I of a three-part series on the topic of how having more teachers of color in the classroom could positively impact education.

Gloria Ladson-Billings
Ladson-Billings writes, in part: “I do know the experience of walking into schools (especially elementary and middle schools) where Black students ask me with eagerness, ‘Are you a teacher here?’  And I recognize the disappointment that falls over those same faces when I shake my head, ‘No.’ Their longing for a teacher that ‘looks like them’ is palpable. The current statistics indicate that class after class of children -- Black, Native American, Latino, and Asian -- go through entire school careers without ever having a teacher of their same race or ethnicity.”

But, continues Ladson-Billings: “I want to suggest that there is something that may be even more important than Black students having Black teachers and that is White students having Black teachers! It is important for White students to encounter Black people who are knowledgeable and hold some level of authority over them. Black students ALREADY know that Black people have a wide range of capabilities. They see them in their homes, their neighborhoods, and their churches. They are the Sunday School teachers, their Scout Leaders, their coaches, and family members. But what opportunities do White students have to see and experience Black competence?”

To be clear, this is just a short excerpt of Ladson-Billings’ post.  Make sure and check out all of her thoughts by visiting this web page. And check out the entire three-part series by visiting the Ed Week home page for Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.

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