Recruitment & Retention

Virginia’s Largest School District Favors White Teachers in Hiring, Study Finds

By Emmanuel Felton — May 05, 2017 2 min read
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Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school district, is far more likely to hire a white teacher than a black teacher, even when controlling for advanced degrees and years of classroom experience, according to a study conducted by a team of researchers at George Mason University.

“Discrimination is a powerful word and one that is often avoided because of what it connotes,” the study’s authors wrote. “In this district, black applicants, though having many attributes similar to their white counterparts, encountered a significantly lower likelihood of being offered a job, replicating discriminatory employment patterns documented across a range of industries.”

The GMU researchers, who examined the district’s 2,012 job application data, found that while black applicants had, on average, more degrees and more time in the classroom, they were less likely to pass the district’s screening process than white teachers. That year, black applicants made up 13 percent of the candidate pool, but only received 6 percent of the job offers; white candidates accounted for 70 percent of the pool and received 77 percent of the offers. The researchers also found that when black applicants did get job offers, they were usually at the high-performing district’s high-poverty schools where there were large numbers of nonwhite students.

“It’s just disturbing. It’s 2017. We should have moved past this,” a black high school teacher, who asked for anonymity, told The Washington Post. “It shouldn’t come down to race. If they have a higher degree and more experience, that’s what translates in the classroom, not skin color.”

While the GMU researchers didn’t name the district, current and former officials from Fairfax County Public Schools have confirmed that Fairfax was the subject of the study, reports The Post. The newspaper reports that Fairfax County Public Schools has released a statement saying that the school system has overhauled its hiring practices since 2012 and that the percentage of nonwhite teachers in the district has climbed from 16 percent in 2012 to 18 percent in 2016. The district told The Post that more than 28 percent of the teachers they hired this year are nonwhite, though officials didn’t say how many were black.

Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, told The Post that the study offers “suggestive but not conclusive evidence” of hiring discrimination.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.