To the editors:
The article “Where have all the teachers of color gone” (Summer 2009) attributes a decrease in the number of African American teachers to their failure to pass the Praxis. One of the interviewees said this failure results from the bad education they received in Philadelphia schools. But this comment excuses their colleges and the teachers themselves from rectifying those gaps. If the gaps weren’t closed, how did they graduate from college? Did their colleges provide an equally “bad” education?
The article goes on to say that the District dropped 270 teachers, 61 percent of whom were Black, because they failed to pass the Praxis. While not explicitly stated, it was implied throughout the article that those who failed the Praxis should be hired for reasons other than academics.
Every profession needs to take a test before being able to practice. And the test may not be as fair as people who fail would like it to be. Still, no one wants their brain operated on by a doctor who has not passed his/her boards.
I studied for an entire summer to prepare for my nursing boards. It was not an easy exam, but I needed to pass in order to write “R.N.” after my name.
It seemed to me that the article offered cultural competency as a substitute for passing the Praxis. If cultural competency is the key to success, it would be easy to prove. It was around well before the 2005 study cited in the article. But feeling comfortable and having a background similar to students does not and should not supersede good teaching.
The article is filled with assumptions and innuendo. Education is a very complex problem with no ready answers. The fact is that too many Black teachers are failing the Praxis, and this needs to change because our students need qualified role models. The District is taking steps to fix that problem. It’s time to move away from blame and focus on solutions.
Eileen DiFranco, R.N.
The writer is a school nurse at Roxborough High School.