New research confirms what black education reformers have always known: The success of black students lies not in school integration, but in more black teachers and black-led charter schools committed to their achievement and well-being.
The study, issued last month by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, found that low-income black students who have just one black teacher in grades 3-5 are more likely to graduate and consider college, their likelihood of dropping out reduced by 29 percent. This is especially true for low-income black boys, whose dropout rates fall by a whopping 39 percent when a black teacher leads the class.
Much of the education world expressed shock at this news. The findings are stunning, especially considering that, according to National Center for Education Statistics data from 2013-14, only 72.5 percent of black students nationwide graduate from high school in four years, compared with 87 percent of white students. For black boys, the numbers are worse: In 2012-13, only 59 percent graduated in four years, according to a 2015 report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
What’s at stake now is how education reformers choose to respond. Many proponents of equity continue to suggest public school integration as the antidote to the achievement gap between students of color and white students. But as suggested by a recent social-media uproar over a Pepsi commercial—in which Kendall Jenner “ends” racist violence with a soda and a smile—mere proximity and interracial camaraderie do not defeat racism. Similarly, the mere presence of white students has never benefited black students.