To the Editor:
In the Education Week article “Black Male Teachers a Rarity,” attention is called to disturbing statistics about the attrition of teachers of color, and, in particular, male teachers of color, in public schools across the country. The article suggests that while the pool of qualified and committed teachers of color is increasing, these same teachers are also leaving the profession at a higher rates than white teachers. It draws upon research findings that “many nonwhite educators feel voiceless and incapable of effecting change in their schools.”
Yet while the article rightly underscores the combination of personal, institutional, and structural reasons why black men are leaving the teaching profession, there is reason to feel optimistic that this statistic can be reversed.
In 2014, for example, our soon-to-be-published research shows, historically black colleges conferred a disproportionate number of degrees in education, including 30 percent of the education degrees conferred to black men. Teacher education programs at historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, or MSIs, are actively trying to solve issues of teacher retention and attrition as well. By designing innovative programs to better prepare teachers to work in schools that have concentrations of students of color and otherwise “at risk” students, MSIs give us new models for effective student teaching and clinical preparation.
In particular, MSIs have been national leaders in building university-school-community partnerships. Teachers who graduate from MSIs have spent significant time in the schools and communities in which they seek to work. The issues these teachers face when they have their own classrooms thus come as no surprise, and, in turn, they arrive armed with strategies for success.
This is not to say that their jobs are not difficult, but that they come to this work with the mindset and tenacity needed to change individual lives, struggling with the larger structural inequities in their schools and in American education more generally.
Assistant Director for Research
Andrés Castro Samayoa
Assistant Director for Assessment and Senior Research Associate
Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions
University of Pennsylvania
A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2016 edition of Education Week as Research Finds Black Males’ Interest in K-12 Teaching Rising