On Tuesday March 17th, 2015 I had the opportunity to attend a Boston City Council Committee on Education working session. The hearing was to discuss recruiting and retaining educators of color within Boston Public Schools. Below is a testimony from my short experience in the BPS class setting.
March 17th, 2015
Working Session: Joshua McFadden Testimony Document
Order re: hearing to discuss recruiting and retaining educators of color….
“Education happens when you learn something you did not know you did not know.” – Daniel Bornstein
Being marginalized, and yet acclimated to color blindness because of somewhat privileged settings led me to believe that any compassionate or “caring” person can leave an equally impactful imprint on a child’s life. This premise is entirely wrong. I came to Boston, MA Aug. 2013 to embark on a year of service through AmeriCorps City Year. I was blessed to be able to serve in Mattapan at the Mildred Ave. K – 8 School. I was, in fact, the only person of color on a team of roughly sixteen people assigned to an institution where 100% of the students were “minorities”. Nearly all of the students at The Mildred are black students. The percent of black students enrolled at The Mildred far exceeds 8.7%, which is the statewide average of all African American students in Massachusetts (Enrollment Data MA Department of Ed 13-14).
I was amazed to witness the degree to which the socio-economic levels and other variables seemed to be identical for the great majority of students at The Mildred. In my view, this lack of diversity…this sameness was a direct result of bussing and the re-segregation of schools and communities. After familiarizing myself with the history of Boston’s considerable efforts to eradicate its “dual school system establishment,” I was even more astonished. In Morgan vs. Hennigan, Judge Wendell A. Garrity Jr. ruled in 1974 that there was in fact de jure segregation which was at that time perpetuated by the school committee, Board of Education, and the Education Commissioner. Sadly, since that time, there has not been substantial change in either the diversification of our teachers or students enrolled in many of Boston’s Public Schools. Today, schools are predominately black while educators, especially in the lower grades are not educators of color. In John Dewey’s essay, “Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal,” he tells us that education is not preparation for life, but that education is life itself! Through the absence of educators who look like they look and perhaps share similar backgrounds and experiences, what are the most fragile and vulnerable of our students being taught?
With Dewey’s words in mind and with statistics about the monolith nature of both the students (black) and the teachers (white) in Boston’s public school system, I strongly feel that granting adequate funding for non-traditional recruiting for educators of color as well as instituting effective retention strategies for current and future educators of color will be the catalyst that can produce increased positive results in terms of academic performance, progress towards graduation, improved attitudes about learning and education, and raised student self-esteem levels for the overwhelming number of Boston’s public school students.
What I did not know I did not know was that my students did not care how much I knew until they knew how much I actually cared about their well-being…until they realized that I, too, was one of them. The “face” of that administrated care can make a world of difference in the lives of young people. Because I fit the same basic physical description as most of my students, the initiation and cultivation of mutual positive high regard was immediate and trusted. A stronger and quicker student-to-educator bond developed that remains to this day…more than a year after leaving The Mildred. I specifically remember a student named Du’Shard who one day said to me, “Mr. Mac, I swear doe, I never actually met anyone that look like you who is doing something positive. For real for real.” In me, Du’Shard was able to see a professional educator who was far removed from what he had been exposed to. In the young black male educator with “dreads” and visible tattoos that worked with him on a daily basis, Du’Shard and other students, both in this class and outside of this class, were given a different face for educators and a renewed value for education. Because I spoke the language of caring, high expectations, and responsibility, this student began to show he cared about his life through improved academic performance. I strongly believe that by granting adequate funding towards non-traditional recruiting and retention methods for educators of color will be the catalyst that turns mirrors into windows for so many of Boston’s Public School students.
Joshua A. McFadden
Boston Bussing and Desegregation Project & Howard Rye Institute
42 Seaverns Ave, Boston, MA 02130