The federal government shutdown is ending at least temporarily but will it shutdown again in three weeks? Also, federal workers still have not been paid this year! Find out how you can help federal workers here. One major way is to donate to food banks. See more resources for federal employees. Continue to call, fax, or text Senators Burr (202-224-3154) and Tillis (202-224-6342). Tell them to support a "smart wall" (increased border security without a physical wall) and a permanent fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Issues surrounding racial inequity have been increasingly noted in the last few years. In 2016, the Public School Forum of North Carolina published the Committee on Racial Equity: Action Plan and Recommendations, presenting "relevant research" and "core findings." Among the contributing issues were resegregation with reference to many schools across NC going back to to the "neighborhood model" and charter schools adding to the racial divide. Also, they note discipline disparities from a report presented to the NCGA in 2014. In that "students of color in North Carolina schools have significantly higher rates of both short- and long-term suspensions than their white counterparts." They refer to the "opportunity gap" (what is often termed "achievement gap") because educational opportunity is limited to students of color as compared to white students even controlling for income and exceptional children and limited English proficiency statuses. Also noted is students of color being overrepresented in special education and having less access to rigorous courses and programs. Finally, they present research about the need for more diversity in teachers (the majority of teachers in NC are white which is disproportionate to the growing percentage of students of color) and more culturally responsive pedagogy. Read more of their recommendations to policymakers. The Public School Forum of North Carolina continues their work with an annual summit, "Color of Education."

Racial equity was number three in the Public School Forum of North Carolina's Top 10 Education Issues for 2019. Read more about how their senior director of policy, Lauren Fox asked state leaders to "invest in ongoing teacher training to foster racial equity, create effective pathways to promoting greater diversity in the teacher pipeline and recommit to creating and sustaining integrated schools and classrooms."

One of the ideas noted in the Public School Forum of North Carolina's Action Plan and Recommendations was racial inequity in school suspension rates. The News and Observer staff asked "Are NC schools biased against black students? New report points to suspension rates." They reveal that in the 2016-17 school year black students only made up 25% of the student population but received 57% of all short-term suspensions. Also noted is that "teachers view student behavior differently based on race [as] NC State research suggests." This study looked at implicit bias and how teachers had a more difficult time recognizing emotions on the faces of black students as compared to white students.

Peggy Nicholson, director of the Youth Justice Project, when interviewed by News and Observer staff said that white teachers are allowing white students to get by with behavior for which black students are disciplined. See the Youth Justice Project Racial Equity Report Cards here.

When looking at racial inequity in suspension rates and the roll of white teachers, it is important to realize the disproportionate numbers of white teachers in schools. WRAL created a two part series looking "Inside NC's teacher diversity gap" beginning with "NC's teacher diversity gap: 'Where are the black and brown teachers?'" Read more about how 80% of NC teachers are white while more than 50% of students are minorities, "the 'role-model effect,' [and how] researchers say students of color benefit both academically and emotionally from seeing teachers who look like them."

In part two of their series, "What's the future of teacher diversity in NC? Colleges of education may hold the answer," WRAL investigates the need to recruit more students of color into their education programs. Even more surprising than the disproportionate number of minority teachers to minority students is the percentage of minority men in the education field. In 2016-17, only 2% of students enrolled in NC colleges of education were black men and only 0.4% were Hispanic men. Realizing that the Teaching Fellows program is not meeting its goal of bringing in more men and students of color is disappointing also. Programs need to do better with recruitment efforts. One black male education student noted that he was actively being recruited by other states to teach but not by NC where he was attending school.

With such a need for more racial diversity, we read about stories like that of Dion Beary, a black male teacher and former NC Teaching Fellow who left the profession due to low wages and a lack of work-life balance. This reminds us that it is not enough to recruit teachers of color, but we have to retain them as well. As reported last year, NC ranked 37th in the nation for teacher pay so we have a long way to go in both recruitment and retention efforts.

Last week in our State of Education post we mentioned our excitement about electing pro-public education candidates to the NCGA. Will they and other policymakers see the value in funding and policies that promote racial equity in our public schools?

Other notable articles:

How Triangle schools are trying to reduce black and Latino student suspensions

Are black students more likely to be suspended in your child's NC school district?

North Carolina shortchanges students who are poor, black and gifted, report says

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