Are Black teachers becoming extinct nationally?

black teacher in the classroom

When a group of education researchers, practitioners and activists gathered at Howard University in April to address the lack of diversity in the nation's teacher workforce, Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick reminded her audience that such a time had already been foreshadowed.
Nearly 60 years ago, Thurgood Marshall first "warned that Black teachers would lose their jobs to racist displacement as the nation's schools were integrated," said Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education. Marshall, in 1955, was serving at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when he reported on the impending plight of these teachers. The year before, Marshall had argued and won the landmark desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education that opened up classrooms and education to Black children.
The elimination of Black teachers from the classroom would not only be an economic loss for those educators, but a disservice to their students and a detriment for the teaching profession, says Fenwick, further sharing Marshall's troubling words during a town hall event hosted by Howard's School of Education, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers.


Today, Marshall's sobering observations have proved true, say experts pointing to the academic and social benefits that come when African-American and Hispanic students attend schools where racial and gender diversity of teachers and staff is high. But that doesn't reflect the makeup of most urban public schools when "73 percent of teachers are White and 68 percent of principals are White," Fenwick adds.


Black and other minority children are being taught in deeply racially isolated schools and are more likely to spend their entire K-12 education in public schools without ever seeing or having a teacher of color. In fact, Fenwick says, "This is the most populous generation of African-American children who have never been taught by an African-American teacher or who have never attended a school led by an African-American principal."


But Amy Wilkins, the College Board's new civil rights fellow, pointed out at a town hall forum on teacher diversity that "we have our own mess to clean up" as Black educators.


"Some of the most hurtful things that have been said about Black children have come out of the mouths of Black teachers," says Wilkins to applause. Just because a Black teacher is in the classroom for Black children, Wilkins adds, there is no guarantee that a positive learning experience is taking place or a role model is there.


What's needed, says Wilkins, the former Education Trust executive, "are teachers who respect our children and who can be ruthlessly demanding" when it comes to expecting the best academically from Black and minority children, as they do from White students.
And as practitioners and schools of education, urged AFT President Randi Weingarten, "We need to do more to ensure teachers better represent the students they teach. This includes thinking differently about recruitment and retention and about how we as a country view teaching."


HBCUs, which produce 50 percent of the nation's Black educators, have been doing just that, says Dr. Chance Lewis, who "is tired of the familiar refrain, ‘We can't find any good Black teacher recruits.'"
They are out there, and the process begins on college campuses, maintains Lewis, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Full Professor of Urban Education in the College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


When Dr. Ivory Toldson surveys the education workforce, he finds that "teaching is the No. 1 profession among Black men with master's degrees," but there are less than 2 percent of them in the classroom. Improving their college-going and completion rates makes boosting the professional teaching pipeline that much more complicated, but it can be done, says Toldson, a Howard University professor and senior research fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus. The expected retirement of more than 1 million teachers in the coming years offers a great opportunity for racial and gender diversity in the profession, experts say.


For Black male teachers, though, their journey shouldn't end in the classroom, Toldson suggests. They have too much to offer. "It would be a disservice to the profession if they aren't also used to improve diversity," or tapped to help educate those concerned about best practices for teaching young Black males, or if they aren't allowed to provide other quality services that can benefit all students regardless of race or gender.

from The Black Star Project

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.

Comments

  • This is not a civil rights issue. The precipitous drop in black teacher numbers in the last five years is directly linked to the targeting of urban public school systems, which black teachers are concentrated in, by corporate education reform, e.g. parent trigger laws, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top (Obama reform). Once that reform moves to the suburbs, which it has now started, Caucasian teachers will be targeted.

    Posted by nanror, 10/30/2013 1:06am (4 years ago)

  • The brilliant and even epochal contributions of educator and Communist W. E. B. Du Bois in the field of education may be dimly comprehended now, but in the future, they will be much more clearly understood and appreciated.
    Du Bois's science, art, prose, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, are testaments to the subject of this article, and the role and significance of the "itinerant teacher", or African teacher, in all its gloom and glory.
    That the genocide against the Negro in these United States, would visit the true heroines, and heroes of the same, should surprise no one.
    Just as maybe our most beloved character, Josie, in The Souls of Black Folk (Chapter 4), perished from work, worry and residual racial hatred, her teachers, of which Du Bois himself was perhaps our brightest star teacher, would perish because of the barbarity of the "White Masters of the World".
    To Du Bois, both he and Josie were one. One thinks of the selflessness of maybe the most valiant lawyer brother to hail from their mutual alma mater and Communist Party member from Harvard, the selfless
    Benjamin Jefferson Davis Jr. , as he would put the safety and esteem of his poor, working class clients before his own.
    Teachers, from the Black male and female itinerants in the segregated, rural South, to our Black female and male Princeton and Harvard chairs, have been our salvation, and will be, if the United States of America survives extinction.
    Both Communists in the Black and white skin, ought to strive to understand this truth, as it has been the very wellspring of the survival and vitality of our potentially extremely powerful and just nation.
    Two books are recommended. Both books are by Du Bois:
    John Brown and The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906-1960
    This is The Ordeal of Mansart.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 10/10/2013 1:41pm (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments