The critical shortage of Black male teachers: To close the gap, we have to start them young
DR. BETTYE PERKINS | 4/12/2011, 4:45 p.m.
It is not news to readers of the Amsterdam News, especially those with children, that our schools are in crisis. I'm here to tell you that something can be done about it, but that there are no shortcuts to turning things around.
In order for our students to learn and excel, we desperately need more African-American teachers in the New York City Public Schools--particularly African-American males--and we need to sustain and retain them. I work with a group that is making this happen.
We've long lived with the knowledge that our schools are failing to close the achievement gap for African-American students, and that Black boys in particular drop out at twice the rate of white boys. We know that, while Black males make up 5 percent of men in U.S. colleges, they are more than 36 percent of the prison population.
Just this month came even more bad news: a new study of all students found that, while the high school graduation rate is up to 64 percent in New York City, only 23 percent of these students are graduating with the skills they need to enter either college or the workplace--and this figure does not include the large number of students in special education. Some other inner cities are doing even worse than New York, with Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers seeing "less than 17 percent of students" meeting college or workplace standards, according to the New York Times.
These statistics are the shame of our nation and cry out for urgent action, but they come at a time when state and local governments are looking to cut everything, including school budgets. We need to fight to maintain and expand our investment in education, but we need to do it wisely, with ideas and programs that work.
In his state of the union message, President Obama devoted considerable time to a call to making schools places of "high expectations and high performance" in order to prepare students for college and the challenges of our time. He touted his "Race to the Top" initiative saying, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."
"Let's also remember that, after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom," the president said. "If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation--if you want to make a difference in the life of a child--become a teacher. Your country needs you."
No one is more needed in the teaching profession than African-American males. Of the 200,000 new teachers hired each year, only 2 percent are African-American males. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, overall, "less than 3 percent of the nation's teachers are persons of color, so, during a time when Black children need Black teachers as mentors and role models, we have to make sure our teachers and principals reflect the great diversity of this country."