- The Mississippi Association of Educators formed a weekly online meetup last year to support and encourage black male teachers in the state who often find themselves filling several roles in a school, according to The Hechinger Report.
- From mentoring to discipline, black male teachers are often called upon to reach students of color, and the group gives these educators a chance to share their experiences. In Mississippi, 27% of the state’s teacher workforce is black, but black students make up almost half of the student body.
- The group supports black teachers as they deal with low pay along with systemic and cultural barriers, and empowers them to voice their concerns to administrators, who set the tone for an inclusive environment.
Research shows teachers of color face several obstacles including hostile work cultures that leave them feeling unwanted. Black teachers also feel undervalued because they take on several responsibilities without compensation for extra work. Most are also unable to tailor their teaching to meet the needs of the students they serve, who are often students of color.
Districts can offset some of these negatives by offering incentives such as loan forgiveness, service scholarships and relocation assistance. They can also work to develop diverse leadership and positive working conditions. Empowering teachers of color by making the curriculum, as well as learning and work environments, inclusive and respectful to all racial and ethnic groups will also help instill a more diverse, supportive culture.
Higher compensation, alternative paths to teaching and creating partnerships with historically black colleges and universities are some of the ways districts can diversify their workforce. Groups like The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice in Philadelphia and the BOND Project in Maryland also help retain and recruit teachers of color. These groups pique black students’ interest in the profession early and provide mentoring for new teachers.
Despite evidence students of color are more likely to thrive with teachers who look like them, only 20% of the nation’s teachers are black or Hispanic, and only 2% are black men. Hiring black administrators may be the key to increasing those figures. The presence of a black principal increases the likelihood of hiring new black teachers by as much as 7% and also may help with retention. Black principals are more likely to recruit from historically black colleges and universities.
Students may also fare better when they have a principal of color. Research shows black students with black teachers have higher math scores, but even without black teachers, students still made positive gains if the school was led by a black principal.