Solution journalism fall 2022: the nab draft for hiring teachers

The Issue:

“Black people in New Orleans are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed…compared to White people in Louisiana”, most likely due to the systemic racism at play, according to a co-director of Step Up Louisiana (Ravits, 2021). Further, “the median wage of white men in New Orleans, $60,075, is nearly twice that of African American men, $31, 018”, portraying how the median wages of African American men decreased while it increased for White men (National Equity Atlas, 2022). The unemployment and salary decreases of African Americans conveys that hard work does not always pay off in the future. Further, this can be seen through the lens of educators in New Orleans, and how despite the degrees and education they receive, Black teachers consistently face obstacles of unemployment and low salaries. 

In New Orleans, teachers have been let go from their jobs in large groups due to the city’s revamping of the school system into a charter system. “The New Orleans Parish School Board fired all 4,600 of the city’s public school teachers, most of them black” (Carr, 2015). This cut in the amount of Black teachers then led to the decrease of black teachers in New Orleans schools to go from 71 percent to less than 50 percent (Carr, 2015). Carr also discusses how regardless of the fact that these teachers had over ten years of teaching experience in the city, they were still forced to leave, causing New Orleans to see the “single biggest demographic change of any urban teaching corps since the school desegregation of the 1960s”. However, this change in school leadership is a minuscule aspect of the racial gap of pay and job opportunities of teachers in New Orleans regardless of their qualifications, experience, and education attained.

A prior student at Lake Area New Tech High School in New Orleans stated that he noticed “a lot of the good, black teachers were being replaced. Not only were they being replaced, but younger white teachers were replacing them.” (Sullivan, 2014). As Sullivan continues to explain what he noticed at his school, he conveys how Black teachers who were at the school for more than twenty years were being let go while White teachers who received jobs within the last two years were allowed to stay, portraying how Black individuals are fighting racial barriers within the New Orleans schooling system. This pattern is also seen in schools such as St. Tammany Parish schools where “teachers of color comprise only 10% of the district’s instructor workforce”, while White teachers keep getting hired (Hess, 2022). Throughout the article, Hess conveys that she believes New Orleans schools may be “overlooking candidates” due to barriers in place involving race, and this could be the reason for Black teachers not getting as many hirings Whites, even when they work hard for it. 

Students in New Orleans charter school. Photo by: Edmund D. Fountain

When looking at teacher salaries of New Orleans and comparing Blacks and Whites, the pattern remains the same: Black teachers consistently get paid less than their White counterparts, despite the equal levels of education attainment they receive. According to the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, “Black school administrators’ salaries are lower than those of their white counterparts, on average” and “Black teachers and Black counselors’ salaries are lower than those of their white counterparts, on average”. Further, “Black school leadership administrator salaries are lower than those of their white counterparts”, with “Black school leaders earning an average of $6,700 less than their white counterparts” (Carr, 2022). As Carr conveys the differences in teaching salaries based on race in New Orleans, she also discusses how “Black and white counselors with similar education levels, years of experience, and school levels” still get paid different amounts because Black counselors tend to get jobs where individuals get paid less while White counselors tend to obtain jobs in places that have higher salaries (Carr, 2022). Further, when Carr was conducted her research, she states “I find that Black teachers and counselors are making less than their white counterparts with the same level of education, years of experience, and school levels, on average”, illustrating the overarching theme that regardless of qualifications, Black teachers are continuously receiving lower salaries in New Orleans (Carr, 2022).  

The Solution:

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is similar to the education system in which both athletes and teachers are vying for job opportunities. However, when looking at the hiring process of basketball players for the NBA, there are several skill and performance-based aspects of the rigorous tryout process that create the high levels of success and popularity of the basketball association, causing credit to be given to the NBA for having an equal playing field of opportunity. 

“Starting in 2016, the window widened for players to test the draft waters” as more players were allowed to enter the NBA due to eligibility requirements broadening, leading to “the basis objective of getting to the league being the same for all” (Buckley, 2017). These eligibility requirements range from “interviews and physical tests” to playing “good, old-fashioned basketball” against the other players hoping to get contracts from NBA teams (Buckley, 2017). As the qualifications developed over time into a performance-focused and experience-based tryout process, players were given more opportunities and options on how to show off their basketball and teamwork skills to recruiters, causing draft picks to be based on level of performance rather than the individual athlete themselves.

According to College Insider, “The NBA draft is designed to create a balance of talent across all competing teams” with the goal to “preserve an even distribution of talent, give weaker teams a fighting chance, and make the league as fair and competitive as possible.” Further, College Insider discusses that the drafting system of the NBA, which allows players to get contracts and teams to trade athletes, creates a “useful dynamic for teams that need experienced players rather than young players, or when a team wants to rebuild its current roster by adding fresh talent” (College Insider, 2022). The eligibility requirements of the NBA are standard in that players must “have completed four years of their college eligibility, or if they have graduated from high school in the USA, but did not enroll to a college, four years must have passed since graduation” (Blakey, 2022). Additionally, players must “have signed a contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA and have played under that contract” to ensure that they have experience within a professional team, which then makes them ready for the professional basketball atmosphere they will encounter (Blakey, 2022). Through these procedural eligibility requirements, the NBA is able to ensure that those given the opportunity to be placed on a team have the same experienced backgrounds, conveying how the NBA is skill and experience-focused when contracting athletes rather than focused on individual characteristics including race or ethnicity. 

Players at NBA draft trainings. Photo by: Joe Abunassar

Once athletes are eligible to try out for teams, they are then judged based on their performance throughout tryouts and the reviews coaches and agents have regarding their skills and execution during basketball games against other athletes. Players are measured for height, weight, body fat percentage, wingspan, hand length, hand width and standing reach. They are tested on the bench press, vertical leap, standing vertical, three-quarter sprint, shuttle run and lane agility. They go through game actions like shooting on the move, spot-up sniping and even full-on scrimmaging” throughout the try-out process (Buckley, 2017). Additionally, potential NBA players will attend private workouts where “teams can put prospects through intense drills to test their endurance and stamina” and “participate in 3-on-3 drills against players at similar positions”, where players can often shine through their playing skills (Taylor, 2019). Along with showing their skills, players are also hoping to gain contracts and traction by the relationships they form with agencies and teams. As “players will work out in front of as many as a dozen teams throughout the entire process…players will meet with team executives and coaches for the interview process. Some have said the interview is even more important than the on-court drills since this is really the first opportunity teams have to get to know a player personally,” portraying how the process is truly about forming connections and showing off athletic expertise (Taylor, 2019). For example, “Markelle Fultz, a hyper-charged point guard out of Washington, tops the draft board of nearly every mock drafter” and “He shakes hands, chats with exclusives and dazzles with his impressive measurements”, conveying how drafts onto NBA teams relies heavily on relationships and interviews of players (Buckley, 2017). The pressure of performing at their all-time best is high for athletes as “Most agencies will have a designated training facility they send their clients to and some facilities host players from multiple agencies” to watch all the players and pick out who performs the best for their team (Taylor, 2019).

Alongside performance and relationships with teams, players are also judged on their popularity among the general public including basketball viewers and team fans, which can then bleed into player’s salary increases. “Besides actual playing ability, building and maintaining a brand presence has been vital in athlete’s ability to land big name, lucrative endorsements”, due to these partnerships leading to more popularity among the general public (Stice, 2020). Further, “The more fan support and attention that an athlete can attract, maintain and maximize, the more teams, leagues, sponsors and other stakeholders value the athlete’s brand”, leading to “boosted ticket sales, viewership, merchandise revenue and development of the team’s own brand” (Stice, 2020). The team’s development and ticket sales increase then causes the player’s salary whose popularity is causing this attraction to increase. A study done by Stice found that the amount of Twitter followers a player has “impacted a player’s salary at a marginally significant level,” with more followers leading to more millions of dollars added to their contract, illustrating how popularity of a player does matter when drafting and contracting players (Stice, 2020). Furthermore, their popularity is dependent on how well they play in the game based on how many points they score, impacting the NBA to choose players who have a combination of exceptional performance and a large fan base.

When analyzing the culmination of skill, performance, relationships, and popularity that a player has to then be chosen and paid by NBA teams, the concept of race and ethnicity playing a role in athletes drafted plays a minimal to nonexistent role in decisions made by agencies and coaches. “Roughly 80% of the league’s players are black. And of the 42 players who had signed contracts… and had annual salaries of more than 10 million, 88% were black,” conveying “Clear evidence of black success in the NBA” (Kahn, 2005). Further, when looking at the salaries of Black NBA players, “It was found that there were no overall significant racial salary differentials in the NBA” (Kahn, 2005). Khan’s study also looked at player popularity and fan preferences and found “no racial differences,” leading researchers to conclude that players’ fame is due to skill rather than race, which can be seen in the “continuous decline of NBA discrimination” (Khan, 2005). Specifically, the top-winning team of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, illustrates how race is not a factor in determining who plays on NBA teams. In a study conducted by Leung, it was found that of the top five racially diverse teams, there was an international player for every four spots on the roster (Leung, 2017). Specifically, the Golden State Warriors was found to be the most racially diverse with 27 of their players being international (Leung, 2017). Steph Curry, the top-scoring player on the Golden State Warriors, states basketball has a “figure-it-out-together quality, for the team, for the culture” that they integrate into their team atmosphere, and that “the NBA is “predicated upon competitiveness, disciple, hard work, and character” rather than what background players come from (Leung, 2017). 

The Implementation:

Implementing the layout of the NBA draft into the hiring process of New Orleans teachers would lead to teachers in New Orleans being given teaching opportunities and salaries based on their teaching performance, reviews by others, and prior experience/education. Further, through this new skill-based process, much like the NBA, the educational job field within New Orleans would be led to becoming less-focused on race, causing more Black teachers with high salaries to be prevalent within the school system.

First, the eligibility requirements of teachers in New Orleans should be similar to the requirements of athletes within the NBA: experience-based and qualifications they bring to the table. Much like how athletes must have a certain level of education and fitness requirements, teachers should all have the same requirements in order to be hired. Whether these requirements include the same level of education in terms of degree attained, or a certain number of years shadowing teachers prior to applying for a job, these eligibility requirements can ensure that all educators are on the same playing field and that the hiring process is more focused on teachers’ experiences rather than ethnic background/race. Through this, it can combat the statistics the New Orleans school system has of Black teachers not being hired as often as White teachers, and the factors of race can become minimal to non-existent in the process because the eligibility requirements will be standard for all potential teachers looking to be hired.

Next, the hiring process of teachers in New Orleans can follow the NBA in that the job offerings are based on performances and execution. Similar to how athletes must play basketball games and participate in workouts in front of drafters and agencies, teachers should teach a class in front of those hiring them in order to be reviewed based on their teaching ability rather than individual and personal qualities such as race, ethnicity, or gender. In this procedure of teachers “performing”, they should be given a class to teach with students, with reviewers in the back of the class taking notes on how well, engaging, impactful, and educational their teaching session was. Through this, educators in New Orleans will be able to show off how well they can teach a class regardless of what race or ethnicity they may be, and how well they can ensure that students are retaining the material they are teaching. Further, by having reviewers in the back of the classroom watching teachers “try out” for teaching positions, they are also able to see the manner in which educators choose to run their class and how they can form relationships with their students.

The last part of the NBA draft that could be implemented into the teacher hiring process in New Orleans to ensure that educators are getting hired for their skills and experience rather than race being a factor is having teachers’ “popularity” playing a role in who gets the job offerings. The popularity of teachers would be determined based upon students’ reviews of them following their lesson they were given by a potential teacher. While the teacher is teaching a class and getting observed by those hiring them, students would also be filling out surveys reviewing how they felt about the teacher’s teaching style, persona, and overall classroom atmosphere. The teachers that get the best reviews and are seemed to be the “most popular” in terms of who had the most-liked teaching style and material should be the ones who are offered teaching positions or at least be put in the running for the position. Further, based on how much students like the teaching style of teachers, and how well they can teach a class and the material, the salaries of teachers can slightly change to fit what teachers truly deserve. This would be similar to an NBA player’s salary increasing based on their popularity among the general public, which further adds to everyone being judged based on their skill and likeability. 

Through implementing the NBA draft layout into the hiring process for teachers in New Orleans, educators and students can be assured that those getting hired are hired based on skill, experience, performance, and degrees they have. Further, through these requirements and qualifications those hiring teachers are searching for, race playing a role in the teaching opportunities in New Orleans can be decreased towards elimination, leading to an equal playing field and fairness in the New Orleans job market available for educators.

Works Cited

Blakey, J. (2022, March 29). A guide to the NBA draft. Sports Shorts. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Buckley, Z. (2017, October 3). Explaining how the NBA Draft Works and draft order is determined. Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Carr, O. (n.d.). How do new orleans educators’ salaries differ by role and across racial … Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

Carr, S. (2015, June 18). New Orleans fired all of its teachers after Hurricane Katrina. here’s what happened next. Slate Magazine. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Collegeinsider. (n.d.). How teams make decisions in the NBA draft. Collegeinsider. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

KAHN, L. A. W. R. E. N. C. E. M., & SHAH, M. A. L. A. V. (2005). Race, compensation and contract length in the NBA: 2001-2002*. Industrial Relations, 44(3), 444–462. 

In New Orleans, a deeper look at jobs data catalyzes economic strategy focused on connecting black men to work: National equity atlas. In New Orleans, A Deeper Look at Jobs Data Catalyzes Economic Strategy Focused on Connecting Black Men to Work | National Equity Atlas. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

​​Ravits, S. (2021, March 8). Racial disparities in employment are getting even worse during the pandemic, New Study says. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Stice, Z. (n.d.). Athlete branding: Does Social Media Presence Impact NBA players’ on-court salaries? Samford University. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Stuartwleung. (2017, August 13). NBA’s five most internationally diverse teams (and the correlation with wins/losses). Interbasket. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Sullivan, G. (2020, October 21). New Orleans Schools should stop hiring so many teachers who don’t understand the students’ culture or backgrounds. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Taylor, C. (2019, May 12). An inside look at what happens during an NBA pre-draft workout. USA Today. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Writer, J. O. N. I. H. E. S. S. | S. (2022, September 25). Hiring new teachers in St. Tammany has been hard. hiring teachers of color has been harder. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 



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