In Search of 'the Right Type': An Historical Examination of Black Teachers and Quality in the District of Columbia Public Schools, 1952-1964



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This study on Black teachers and quality utilizes primary source documentation to investigate teacher recruitment and hiring policies in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) between 1952 and 1964. Grounded in archival research methods and critical historical analysis, the study findings reveal that racial bias played a critical role in perceptions of teacher quality. Prior to 1954, broad concerns about the quality of classroom teachers in the DCPS were virtually nonexistent. However, once the school district desegregated its' schools and Black teachers began outnumbering White teachers, the DCPS embarked upon a relentless search for better teachers. Archival data reveal that school district officials used the term "better teachers" both overtly and inadvertently as code for White teachers, whom officials hypothesized were best suited to advance student learning in the DCPS and as such, restore the reputation of the school system. This historical study examines racial bias in teacher quality education policymaking and considers the implications of such on present-day efforts to measure teacher quality and diversify the educator workforce.