We work on a lot of special projects at The Columbian, but our latest feels more special.
After more than a year of planning and months of reporting, we are presenting a multipart series detailing the lack of teachers of color in Washington, the huge gap between teachers of color and students of color, how that affects learning, what is being done and what more could be done to close the gap.
It took so much work! But that’s another reason why this is a special, special project: We shared the reporting with The Seattle Times and the staff of its innovative Education Lab.
Our talented education reporter, Katie Gillespie, thought about doing this story for a long time. In 2017, she attended a data in journalism conference where she met reporter Dahlia Bazzaz of the Times’ Education Lab. It turned out they both had the same idea. So why not throw in together on the story and make it a statewide report?
The first thing was to assemble a database containing demographic data on 64,700 teachers and 1.1 million students from 313 Washington school districts, charter schools and educational service districts. Katie and Dahlia then came up with a formula to calculate the ratio of students of color to teachers of color, with 1.0 being a perfect representation. When you read the story or look at the graphics, you’ll see almost every number but 1.0. Clearly we have a statewide disparity.