Framing a Discussion about Equity in the New Rochelle Public Schools

Written By: Robert Cox

My remarks to the New Rochelle Board of Education on February 4, 2020

There are academic studies which have sought to estimate the impact of exposure to same-race teachers to students during primary school which conclude that schools should assign poor black male students to black teachers in grades 3, 4, and 5 because there are long-term impacts — reducing drop out rates and increasing college aspirations. There are no short-run impacts on school test scores, suspensions, and attendance.

No impact was seen with black girls who were taught by black teachers in the primary grades, while academic performance for Hispanic students who were assigned to Hispanic teachers declined.

Although race-matching is not a silver bullet you do what you can which invites the questions: how many black teachers run 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms; how many poor, male, black students are strategically assigned to these classrooms?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports there are 3.6 million teachers in the United States; most are white females.

In 2004, 8% of teachers were Black but by 2016 just 7% were Black — a decline of 13%. Hispanic teachers were up 50% and Asian teachers were up 100%.

With this noted, teacher impact is dwarfed by family impact. Decades of studies show student success is driven by occupational prestige of the father and education level of the mother.

Population adjusted data for New Rochelle from 2000 to 2018 shows our White cohort is down 13% in the City and down 17% in the District, our Hispanic cohort is up 58% in the City and up 46% in the District. Our Black cohort is up 9% in the City but down 25% in the District. We lost 680 White students and gained 1,123 Hispanic students as you might expect but shockingly lost 650 black students.

This Board should be asking, where did these black students go?

Are our schools experiencing black flight?

Are black families pulling their children from the public schools?

Your Phase I data is based solely on school-age youngsters in New Rochelle public schools.

Is it not also worth exploring data on students who live in New Rochelle but attend private schools; might that explain what happened to the “missing” black students?

Consider that students who attend private schools are as a cohort higher performing and more likely to graduate and aspire to college.

Is the struggle to close the achievement gap for black students explained by the loss of the best and brightest black students?

Does that not suggest a silver bullet? Attract and retain lost black students?

Does it not also suggest that excluding out-of-District students and the decision not to disaggregate student performance data by occupational prestige of the father and educational level of the mother but rather only on race, ethnicity and reduced or free lunch is fundamentally misleading, both suggesting racism to some where none may exist and likely leading the Board and Administration to make policy decisions based on flawed and misleading data that might further widen the achievement gap?


The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers

Black students who have one black teacher are more likely to go to college

The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: the indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment

Change in family income-to-needs matters more for children with less

Socioeconomic background and achievement

Parents’ influence on children’s achievement-related perceptions

The determinants of children’s attainments: A review of methods and findings

Family background, cognitive ability, and personality as predictors of educational and occupational attainment

Control versus autonomy during early adolescence (Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions)