FCPS aims to diversify workforce following recent media attention

Sarah Raza, assistant opinions editor

This past May, The Washington Post published an article about a recent study conducted by George Mason University researchers, which revealed that in 2012, FCPS teacher hire rates statistically differed between white and black applicants, even if they had similar qualifications and degrees.

According to the study, black candidates made up 13 percent of the teacher applicant pool and received 6 percent of job offers; on the other hand, 70 percent of white applicants received 77 percent of job offers, leaving some to wonder what the school system is doing to increase diversity in its teachers.

“I feel like diversity is something that a lot of countries don’t have the privilege to experience, unlike the U.S,” sophomore Saahithi Achanta said. “We should take advantage of that and embrace diversity rather than push it away, because nobody wants to be monotone.”

The findings from the study were validated and published by Harvard Educational Review, and the researchers found that when black applicants received job offers, they were often at low-income schools with high minority populations, potentially leading to a “workforce segregation.”

A representative from FCPS issued a statement that the school system did not have a chance to validate the study, emphasizing that the information is from five years ago and that the district has been working continuously to improve diversity among the applicant pool.

According to school board member Ryan McElveen, more than 28 percent of teachers hired this school year were minorities. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, minority teacher employment in FCPS increased by 20 percent.

In 2016, the Department of Education released a statement saying that nationally, the K-12 teaching workforce in 2011-2012 was comprised of about 82 percent of white teachers. Some critics claim that these statistics are proof of discrimination in hiring practices.

“A more multicultural workforce will help our students of color feel more strongly connected to the school community, and thus they will feel that the school system is more invested in their success,” McElveen said.

A study conducted by New York University professors in 2016 found additional evidence that supported the push for increased racial diversity among teachers. The survey asked about 50,000 students at 200 schools from grades six to nine to rate their teachers on a five-point scale based on if they felt their teachers cared and motivated them. For the most part, minority teachers consistently received higher results than other teachers. One suggested reason for this result is that students could better relate to and understand a teacher who shares similarities with them.

“I think it is very important that, not just along ethnic lines but also income and religious lines, kids from different backgrounds should have role models that they can identify with,” Principal Scott Poole said.

According to the FCPS statement in response to the study, progress and improvements have been made in hiring since the year of the study, 2012, yet some believe that the long history of the issue means that more work is still necessary down the line.

Today’s discrimination is the result of historical injustices committed against people of color,” McElveen said. “These were stitched into the fabric of our society- from our laws and economic system to our housing patterns and our schools. As we become a more multicultural society and people of color are better represented in our political system, these issues will dissipate over time, but we aren’t there yet.”

As of now, FCPS has taken on multiple recruitment strategies aimed at increasing diversity, including partnering with other universities and minority organizations, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), to encourage minority students to choose to teach as a profession. The goal is to help future minority leaders feel welcomed into the school system and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to prosper in the workforce.

“We do know that as a division, we definitely have a lot of work to do, but it can be done,” Poole said. “You have to make an effort, and I think that if we can work with our recruiters from the school system to reach out to those part of underrepresented groups, a difference can be made.”