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Jefferson City Public Schools pursue diversity

Jefferson City Public Schools pursue diversity

JCPS made some progress on diversifying staff, but has a long way to go to reflect student body

November 12th, 2017 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Shelby Kardell/News Tribune Claudine Ruboneka, left, and Eugene Vogel, right, participate during a Jefferson City Public School sponsored diversity discussion held at the Boys and Girls Club in Jefferson City on Tuesday, October 24, 2017.

Community members and Jefferson City Public Schools' leadership have cited the importance of the district's staff being as diverse as its student body. Data submitted by the district to the federal government suggest JCPS has made some progress over the past year in closing a gap between staff and student diversity, but that gap still exists.

The percentage of male staff in the district is half the percentage of male students, and the student body remains more than four times as racially and ethnically diverse as the staff.

The News Tribune reported in October 2016 that of JCPS' total staff, 7.13 percent were minorities, while 35.49 percent of the district's student population were minorities. The district's 2016-17 staff report presented at that month's Board of Education meeting noted 24.23 percent of its staff were male, while the student body then was 51.29 percent male.

Shelby Scarbrough, JCPS director of human resources, recently provided the News Tribune with JCPS' Equal Employment Opportunity report, up to date as of Sept. 6, 2017. EEO reports are federally mandated civil rights documents that track the race, ethnicity, gender and assignment classification of employees.

JCPS's EEO report shows the district employs 1,478 people: 1,232 full-time staff; 85 part-time and 161 new full-time hires brought in over the summer and beginning of the school year.

Of all staff this year, about 9.2 percent are Hispanic or Latino, black or African-American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islander, American Indian or Alaska Native, or two or more races — more diverse than the 6.4 percent minority staff Superintendent Larry Linthacum cited at Tuesday's district-hosted community diversity meeting.

Data provided by Jason Hoffman, the district's chief financial and operating officer, show as of Thursday about 37 percent of the district's 8,627 students were categorized by one of those labels. Nine students' race or ethnicities were "undefined."

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Full-time staff who are not new hires are the least racially and ethnically diverse group, with about 8.03 percent diversity, compared to 17.6 percent for part-time staff and 13.66 percent for new hires.

Full-time staff includes administrators, principals, assistant principals, elementary and secondary classroom teachers, other classroom teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, librarians, teachers' aides, service workers, skilled craft workers, administrative support workers and others.

Most part-time staff are professional instructors.

The overwhelming majority of the district's 1,232 full-time staff are white: all 16 principals; all but one of 19 administrators, officials or managers; all but one of 11 assistant principals; all but 15 of 264 elementary teachers; all but 23 of 271 secondary teachers; 22 of 25 guidance staff; all but one of 11 psychological services staff; all of 11 librarians; 115 of 140 teachers' aides; and 156 of 165 service workers.

Furthermore, most staff are white women: almost 70 percent of full-time staff, 59 percent of part-time staff and about 63 percent of the new full-time hires.

Twenty-five percent of the district's total staff is male. Ten of 19 officials, administrators and managers and seven of 16 principals are male at the level of central office and building leaders.

Among teachers, 8.3 percent of elementary teachers and 36.5 percent of secondary teachers are male.

The data Hoffman provided show as of Thursday, about 50.79 percent of the district's students are male.

It's a lot of numbers that suggest the district has made incremental progress in diversifying its staff and achieving parity with the diversity of its students, despite a stark gap.

But what does that all really mean? Why is classroom diversity in particular important?

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Linthacum told community members Tuesday that research shows it's better if the diversity of staff matches the diversity of students.

He did not cite any particular study or specifically why such an environment is better, but National Public Radio has reported in the past year on a couple of studies on diversity's positive effects for students.

In "The Effects of Teacher Match on Students' Academic Perceptions and Attitudes," Anna Egalite of North Carolina State University and Brian Kisida of the University of Missouri surveyed more than 80,000 public school students in fourth through eighth grades in six urban districts in as many states: North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and New York.

Egalite and Kisida's work found "students who share gender and/or racial characteristics with their teachers have more positive perceptions of their teachers in terms of feeling cared for, feeling that their schoolwork is interesting, and more positive reports of instructional characteristics related to student-teacher communication and guidance compared to other students in the same classroom. They also report putting forth more personal effort and have higher college aspirations," according to a working version of the paper from February.

"These effects appear to be most meaningful for female students, particularly for black female students linked with black female teachers," the study added.

This year's provisional "The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers" by Seth Gershenson, Constance Lindsay, Cassandra Hart and Nicholas Papageorge used the long-term academic records of every public school student in North Carolina who entered the third grade between the 2001 and 2005 school years to focus on what NPR reported was more than 100,000 black elementary students.

Gershenson and Lindsay are from American University, Hart from the University of California-Davis and Papageorge from Johns Hopkins University. Gershenson and Papageorge also are affiliated with the Bonn, Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics, an "independent economic research institute that conducts research in labor economics and offers evidence-based policy advice on labor market issues," according to its website.

IZA is supported by the Deutsche Post Foundation, established by Deutsche Post DHL, "the world's leading logistics company" headquartered in Bonn, of which the more familiar DHL Express is a division.

The study followed students through their senior year of high school and found "exposure to a black teacher during elementary school raises long-run educational attainment for black male students, especially among those from low-income households. For the most disadvantaged black males, conservative estimates suggest that exposure to a black teacher in primary school cuts high school dropout rates 39 percent. It also raises college aspirations along with the probability of taking a college entrance exam."

Much of JCPS's staff diversity is represented by people who identified on the EEO report as black or African-American; 4.9 percent of the district's total staff and 2.99 percent of its classroom teachers are black or African-American. There are seven black or African-American female elementary teachers — no men — and nine black or African-American secondary teachers — six women and three men.

The data from Hoffman show about 20 percent of the district's students are African-American.

About 8.75 percent of the district's student body is multi-racial, while about 2.2 percent of its non-new hire classroom teachers are. That's 12 teachers, four of whom work on the elementary level, plus another three who are new hires.

About 6.65 percent of the district's students are Hispanic, while about 1.1 percent of its classroom teachers are Hispanic or Latino. That's six classroom teachers, evenly divided between the elementary and secondary levels, and no new hires this year.

The classroom teacher statistics the News Tribune calculated do not take into account the "other classroom teaching" staff classification on the district's EEO report, but 90 of those 94 staff members are white, 80 of them white women. Two more of those staff members are Hispanic or Latina women, and the other two are black or African-American women.

"I think our staff population needs to mirror our student population. That is our ultimate goal," Scarbrough said.