Would it bother you if there was a school where most of the teachers were white but most of the students were people of color?
There are several schools like that in Los Angeles. But oddly, many of them are in Reseda.
Reseda? Yes. Reseda.
Reseda is located in the West San Fernando Valley, along the 101 freeway. A sleepy little suburb, the LA times mapping project reports that almost everything about this neighborhood is average for Los Angeles County.
Everything except for its diversity.
Reseda is “highly diverse” for Los Angeles – about 43% Latino, 37% white,and 11% Asian, and 4% African American.
Now for a side story – last week, I was looking at which schools had the whitest staffs. And then I realized, I also have the ethnic demographics for students. I could compare them and see which schools have the highest disparity between white teaching staffs and student bodies of color.
What you get is a list of schools where the staff is mostly white (59% or higher), but the students are almost entirely students of color (84% or higher).
Of the top 15 schools, 6 are in Reseda.
There are almost 1,000 schools in Los Angeles, and 6 of the schools with the highest disparity are in little ol’ Reseda? How can that be?
I am going to make a guess, but it’s just a guess, and not really backed up by much…
I think its a perfect storm of situations.
First, go back to that quote from the LA Times before: Reseda is a “highly diverse” part of Los Angeles. Well, it is becoming less so. According to Census data, 39% of the neighborhood described themselves as “White Only” in 2000. In the 2014 estimate by the Census, that number was down to 30%, So Reseda is becoming less white.
Second, combine that with the length of the careers of the teachers at these schools. All the schools have an average teaching experience of over 15 years in the district. At Vanalden, the average teacher has been in the district for 21 years! That’s 2/3 of my life! So you have teachers in Reseda who are older relics (ok, that was mean) of a time when there were more white teachers in Los Angeles.
Combine those two factors with a third part: Reseda has no middle school, but it has a ton of affordable private schools. Wealthy parents in Reseda can look into their children’s educational career and see two options: Send their kids out of their own neighborhood to schools that have pretty low scores OR they can choose to send their kids to one of the several affordable private schools in the area.
So what you have is this perfect storm of a situation: The schools employ older staffs, which tend to be whiter staffs. The neighborhood is losing white, meaning you have the same high proportion of white teachers with less white students. Finally, many of the wealthier families, (many of whom are white) are choosing to send their kids to private schools.
Reseda is a neighborhood that is in transition. And that transition has created very unrepresentative staffs at their schools.