Advocating racial quotas seems to be the preferred solution of members of the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota (“Schools try to bridge teacher-student color gap,” March 19), but what problem are they trying to solve? And at what price?

It is often unreasonable to simply look at percentages of groups and claim bias when those numbers do not reflect the percentages of the general population. It is curious that coalitions are not forming to protest the racial imbalance in some professional sports. What the members of this coalition seem not to get is that there may be reasons for the disparity. For instance, that racial and ethnic candidates are not applying in numbers representative of the general population. Or, that candidates may not have equal qualifications — should they be hired to fill a racial quota without regard to the effect on teaching quality? The disparity of some groups may be seen as a problem indicating unequal opportunity, but this is a societal problem, not something solved by simply criticizing current demographics of Minnesota teachers.

Misleading readers by “reminding” them (again) that Minnesota has the largest achievement gap ignores the fact that Minnesota students of color perform as well as or better than others throughout the U.S. It also is irrelevant, since there is no evidence that hiring teachers of a specific ethnicity will lessen the achievement gap.

Ideas for “improving” the situation by legislation lack any evidence, or even a reason to believe that legislation would work or would improve or maintain Minnesota educational performance. The programs suggested for improving ethnic distribution do not consider the main goal of the Minnesota educational system, which is to educate as many students as possible to competence on state standards. Hiring based on race or ethnicity has no evidence of improving student performance, even for targeted ethnic groups.

That anecdotes are cited (such as Osseo Area Schools) that have failed do not inspire confidence in the effectiveness of such programs. A useful article would address scientific evidence (not anecdotes) about whether ethnicity of teachers matters (or educational goals) and whether efforts to encourage race-based hiring would indeed increase the percentage of some minorities without affecting student performance.

Do we really think that backdoor or “grow your own” programs that grant teaching licenses to candidates unwilling to enter teacher training programs would improve teaching quality or lead to more minority teachers? Why? Such programs may not provide training of a quality equal to traditional programs that have served this state very well. Minnesota students consistently score very well compared with students in other states.

I understand that stirring controversy via quote mining may gain the attention of readers more than a valid assessment of the situation. But does it serve the community or help people better understand problems and their solutions? Repeated failure of the educational system to eliminate racial inequality should lead lawmakers to stop expecting the educational system to do what our society has been unable to achieve. Educators have their hands full with many concerns related to their main goal to take on efforts to eliminate racial disparity. Minnesota public schools do a very good job, even if there is always room for improvement. Perhaps legislators’ time would be better spent trying to get proportional representation in the Legislature.

 

Rob Jorczak, of Minneapolis, is a teacher and educational researcher.