Not that I was shocked when I read the article, but on October 10th, The Greeley Tribune published an Associated Press report that “only about 2 percent of teachers nationwide are African-American men. But experts say that needs to change if educators expect to reduce minority achievement gaps and dropout rates.”
The article went on to report that “American teachers are overwhelmingly white (87 percent) and female (77 percent), despite minority student populations of about 44 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
I am a product of the School District of Philadelphia, a graduate of Temple University, and earned my Masters in Ed. Administration from Rider University in New Jersey. Although much time has passed since my classroom days, it is still strikingly clear that the number of minorities who attended classes with me could be counted on two hands. Forget about the feet.
Not much has changed over the years, at least not in the area of teacher and administrator education. The numbers, as indicated above, are far too few to generate the necessary impact to increase minority student achievement.
Greg Johnson, a policy analyst for the National Education Association stated that increasing the number of minority teachers is important because of “the role model factor.”
“These students need to see successful adults of color in front of them,” Johnson added.
One program which is trying to fill that void is the Call me MISTER teaching program. MISTER is both an acronym – Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models – and a reference to the 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night,” in which Sidney Poitier’s character demands respect with the line, “They call me MISTER Tibbs!”
This initiative, which is designed to put more minority men at the head of the classroom, offers scholarships in exchange for teaching in public schools. And six years after the first MISTER cohort graduated in 2004, although there has been some progress, there has not been nearly enough.
The Associated Press reports that in order to improve the national percentage of black male teachers to even 3 percent, another 45,000 would need to enroll.
The reality of these statistics is that we can no longer sit back and take a wait and see approach to increasing minority leadership in the classroom and in school administration. A pro-active approach must be taken by universities along with, federal, state and local governments to combine forces to design programs which forward this cause.
With each passing day, we fall further and further behind in this effort, while the needs of minority students, increases at an alarming rate.
Mr. Tibbs is out there. We need to support his way to the classroom!