There’s great concern about the teaching profession. Dwindling numbers are entering the pipeline as the retention rate skyrockets, and a wave of baby boomer educators retire.
Many are particularly anxious about the few number of Black men in the profession. But a number of organizations are creating pathways for young Black male teachers to enter the classroom. WWNO-Radio reported recently on one of those efforts.
On March 30, the Honoré Center for Undergraduate Achievement hosted an open house for prospective Black male teachers. The program offers full scholarships to Southern University in New Orleans. In exchange, the students pledge to teach for two years after graduating.
The program’s director, Warren Bell, spoke with WWNO about the urgency:
“This nation and our community in particular needs more African-American males to manage some of those classrooms where they themselves came from. We have no problem with other folks moving to New Orleans to come in and teach. But to have so few people from the New Orleans community, that’s the piece we want to address.”
Upon announcing a major initiative to recruit Black men, the U.S. Department of Education said less than 2 percent of public school teachers are African-American males.
At the beginning of the 2015 – 2016 school year, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that minorities comprise a majority of public school students, and the number of White students is expected to continue to decline.
The problem, according to numerous studies, is that minority students perform academically better under the guidance of teachers of their own race or ethnicity.
A study reported by the Washington Post states:
“We find that the performance gap in terms of class dropout and pass rates between white and minority students falls by roughly half when taught by a minority instructor. In models that allow for a full set of ethnic and racial interactions between students and instructors, we find African-American students perform particularly better when taught by African-American instructors.”
What makes the Honoré Center noteworthy is that it recruits from communities where most young Black men go to prison more frequently than college. They take prospects who were not necessarily the best scholars, and fashion them into educators who are uniquely qualified to teach the next generation of Black boys in urban communities.
But nationwide, there are challenges to not just recruiting Black male teachers, but also retaining them. Many Black male teachers find themselves isolated in school districts. Dr. Travis Bristol, a research and policy fellow at Stanford University, highlights the many difficulties that Black men must overcome.
In research published by the Schott Foundation, Bristol says Black male teachers have one of the highest turnover rates and offers recommendations to policy makers and school administrators based on his study of Black male teachers in Boston Public Schools.
Dr. Travis Bristol’s recommendations for recruiting and retaining Black Male teachers
Target Black male students: Create opportunities for Black male high school juniors and seniors to experience teaching.
Give specific attention to retaining Black male teachers: Resources and leadership of the high-poverty, high-minority schools must be improved.
Target Black male teachers for professional development: Many of them are isolated and need socio-emotional support.
Encourage schools to have more than one Black male teacher: To deal with loners’ isolation, districts should identify schools with one Black male teacher and strongly encourage administrators to hire additional Black men.
Racial and gender awareness training for all administrators: These sessions could be designed and run by male teachers of color in seminars.
Enlarge scope of school districts’ diversity offices: These offices should have the responsibility of reviewing all cases where Black male teachers are excessed or dismissed.