I was pleased to learn that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called attention to the need for more teachers of color in our nation’s public schools.
His remarks came during a speech at a gathering of educators from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU) at North Carolina Central University on June 3.
Duncan urged the educators to take the lead in “training a new generation of minority students, especially black males, to teach in our nation’s public schools.”
Acknowledging that most HBCUs were established a century ago to train black teachers, he said that black educators in the South used to have a saying about the importance of teachers: “As is the teacher, so is the school.”
“Our elders were absolutely right,” Duncan said. “As all of you know, talent matters tremendously in the classroom, and that is why recruiting and training a new generation of great teachers is essential to closing the achievement gap.”
He quoted Ambrose Caliver, the first African-American research specialist hired by the U.S. Office of Education, who wrote 75 years ago: “In the hands of the Negro teachers rests the destiny of the race.”
Said Duncan, “Every day, African-American teachers are doing extraordinary work in helping to close the achievement gap. Yet we also know that children of color have too few teachers of color.
“Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are black or Hispanic, but less than 15 percent of our teachers are black or Latino. It is especially troubling that less than two percent of our nation’s 3.2 million teachers are African-American males.
“On average, roughly 200,000 new teachers are hired a year in America-and just 4,500 of them are black males. It is not good for any of our country’s children that only one in 50 teachers is a black man.
“When I was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, I visited too many elementary schools that did not have a single black male teacher, though most of the students were black and grew up in single-parent families. How can that be a good thing for young children, especially boys?
“The under-representation of African-American men in the teaching profession is a serious problem. And it is not self-correcting. Our children need you. Your schools of education can, and must, help us solve this national crisis.”
Secretary Duncan’s remarks were most welcome. He deserves credit for putting the spotlight on this issue from his highly visible position in the Obama Administration.
The Alma Exley Scholarship Program has been addressing this issue since 1996 by recognizing and supporting outstanding college students of color who are preparing for careers as teachers. Our honorees are making a difference in classrooms in Connecticut and across the country.
Posted August 14, 2010