Do you discourage your smart friends from a career in teaching? Enough people questioned Sabrina Stevens Shupe’s desire to lead a classroom that the 25-year-old found it “disturbing.” But it wasn’t long before a number of factors wore on the former Denver Public Schools employee, who resigned after two years, leaving the district with one less African-American teacher.
Shupe’s story is just one example in what Education News Colorado has found to be a trend across the state: The number of black teachers has dropped, and in DPS they account for just 5 percent of the district’s instructors. The black student population has declined as well—now just 16 percent of DPS overall. Among the issues that can arise from such declines: fewer students being taught by adults with the same cultural understanding, explains one Montbello High School teacher.
DPS says recruitment is a challenge—that stereotypes of the state are keeping young African-Americans away. “They think we ride horses. They think it’s cold, we don’t have a place to get haircuts, and we don’t have any African-American churches,” says Charles Robertson of the Foundation for Educational Excellence. “The district can’t overcome that on its own.” But the Cherry Creek School District has bucked the trend, in part because of its alternative recruitment approach, officials say.
The Ed News article also breaks down the percentage changes in black students and teachers from the metro area’s six largest school districts from 1999 to 2009, as well as the statewide numbers.