Black Male Teachers: Becoming Extinct?

Show Me the Numbers: There are more African-American male educators than recent reports suggest.

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Interestingly, an upward-mobility advantage within the field of education also appears to reduce the number of black men in the classroom. Almost 7 percent of black males with a degree in education become educational administrators, compared with 5 percent for black females and white males, and only 2.8 percent for white females.

If current trends in occupational choice stay the same, as more black men enroll in and graduate from college, that will naturally increase the number and percentage of black male teachers, with complementary increases in black male physicians, lawyers, engineers, nurses, bankers, brokers and other professions.

No evidence suggests that increasing the number of black male teachers will eliminate the achievement gap.

Black male teachers are well-represented in Memphis, Tenn., where they represent 6.5 percent of the teaching force -- more than three times the national average of 1.8 percent. They are scarce in Tallahassee, Fla., where they represent less than 1 percent of the teaching force. Montgomery, Ala., has the highest percentage of black male teachers. In this city with a population of 206,297 (71 percent black), more than 1 in 4 (26 percent) of the teachers are black males. However, most Southern cities are more similar to Baton Rouge, La., which has a population of 439,013 (52 percent black), and less than 1 percent of the teachers are black males.

According to "The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males," from the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the graduation rate for black males in Baton Rouge is 42 percent, and the graduation rate for black males in Montgomery is 33 percent. Notably, graduation rates for white males in both of these cities are less than the national average for black males.

In the 10 metro areas with the largest number of black people -- New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Dallas-Fort Worth and Baltimore -- Baltimore has the highest percentage of black male teachers, with 5.4 percent. Los Angeles and Detroit have the lowest, with 2.3 percent. Notably, all of the large metro areas with a large black population had a percentage of black male teachers that was higher than the national average.

 

When one connects the cities to corresponding graduation rates as presented in the Schott report, there is no compelling evidence that the presence of black male teachers alone will improve graduation rates for black males. However, keeping this information within its proper perspective, even in a district with a representation of black male teachers that is consistent with the representation of black men in the U.S. population, black male students would have little interaction with black male teachers. A black male student, who has had about 55 teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade across all subjects, could expect to have had one black male teacher in Detroit and three black male teachers in Memphis.

The systemic benefits of black male teachers can be realized only through their relationship to the teaching profession, not through their relationship with individual students.

The U.S. needs a teaching force that is drastically more diverse to represent the current demographics of the pre-K-through-12th-grade student population. The disproportionate number of black students who are suspended, are placed in special education and do not graduate with their cohort suggests problems related to equity and inclusion in U.S. educational systems. Diversifying the teaching force could address underachievement among black students; however, the solution will not be realized through race matching of teachers and students.