The Need for More African-American Male Teachers

Education is a key component of social-economic success in our nation.

Yet gaining a quality education isn’t so easy for many African-American children who end up in some of our lowest-performing schools.

One way to change that is to attract more diverse, empathic teachers into our school system so they can serve as good role models to our children and make education more engaging, fun and practical to daily life.

More specifically, we need to recruit more African-American male teachers that can more easily relate to our boys and girls and bring out the best in them in the classroom.

The trouble is, only about 3 percent of America's public school teachers are African-American men.

It’s a shortage well-documented by our nation’s top educators, including former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan through the initiative. Duncan decried the lack of African-American educators, noting that when he was in charge of Chicago Public Schools, most of the students were African-American, but many schools lacked a single African-American male teacher.

Nationally, close to 16 percent of public-school students are African-American, but the number of African-American teachers, both male and female, is only 7 percent of the nation’s teaching force. One study found that nearly 40 percent of public schools lack even a single minority teacher.

Many believe African-American male teachers can be more effective at teaching young African-American men, who are more likely to struggle at school and are significantly less likely than their white counterparts to graduate from high school and college. After all, it makes sense that men who grew up in tough environments are likely to connect in school with youth facing similar challenges.

Research conducted a decade ago found a connection between a teacher’s race and student performance. One study determined that African-American children randomly placed with African-American teachers showed more improvement than African-American children taught by white teachers.

What researchers also found interesting is that African-American teachers educating African-American children create bonds that resemble family connections, support and common experiences.

In Broward County, we could use many of these teachers for our schools and educational programs. The Urban League of Broward County’s School is Cool program could certainly benefit. It’s a school-based program designed to address the ABC’s (attendance, behavior and coursework performance) for struggling middle school youth. Our program offers life skills, academic remediation, course correction, parent engagement and enrichment activities with the intent of getting the students back on track for graduation.

While we have plenty of teachers capable of nurturing students in this and many other programs, African-American male teachers can offer empathy to students that is often based on their own first-hand experience.  

So let’s work to increase teacher diversity and create more opportunity for our students to succeed.

The Baughtom Line: Our nation needs to more African-American men leading our classrooms. They represent just 3 percent of teachers. African-American teachers can serve as crucial male role models and offer unique insights into the challenges experienced by students of color.