February 23rd, 2012
12:24 PM ET

Black male teachers becoming extinct

By Allen Huntspon and George Howell, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Take a moment and think of all the teachers you had between pre-K and twelfth grade.

Now, how many of them were black men?

For most people, this question won’t take too long to answer. That’s because less than two percent of America’s teachers are black men, according to the Department of Education.

That is less than 1 in 50 teachers.

Terris King, 25, a kindergarten teacher at the Bishop John T. Walker School in Washington D.C., believes that for African-American children, having a strong role model in front of them can make a huge difference.

“I fit a void in their lives,” King says, “A lot of them have never felt what it feels like to shake a man’s hand, [have him] look them in the eye, and tell them right from wrong. They need those things. They need someone in their lives who’s strong—they need an African American male in their lives that’s positive.”

This year, King has just over fifty African-American children from low-income households in his classes.

“I look out of my window, and I see gentlemen that are standing on the corner, and I look at my boys, and I can say to myself what I’m going to teach in a day about what’s right and what’s wrong, might turn the path a little bit.”

It’s this kind of impact that Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he is trying to replicate in classrooms around the country. He launched the Teach campaign and is actively trying to recruit more African-American men to go into teaching straight out of college.

“I think all of our students benefit from having a black male in the classroom,” Duncan says, “But particularly our young black males. I think what we haven’t talked about enough is that we’re competing with the gangs, we’re competing with the drug dealers on the corner, and when students fall through the cracks, when young people don’t have that positive mentor, in a school setting, in the church or community, there’s always a guy on the street corner that can say come my way.”

But if you ask most African-American men why they don’t teach, they’ll tell you—-it just doesn’t pay the bills. King says, “Historically in our society there is an expectation that a man provides for their family. This is an added pressure, that warns against men becoming teachers because of the salary.”

“I just want our teaching workforce to reflect the tremendous diversity of our nation’s young people. [But] I think fundamentally we have done a poor job as a country, historically, of making the teaching profession attractive,” Duncan says.

The newly launched RESPECT Project is one way the Department of Education is trying to do just that. By offering incentives to teachers and school districts that will increase starting salaries and provide more professional development and training among other things, Secretary Duncan hopes to eliminate barriers and concerns that may keep qualified candidates away.

“There are African American men all over the country with skills, and with passion, that can serve these boys in so many capacities that they don’t even know,” King says. “It makes a huge difference because [the students] are able to be comfortable with themselves, they’re able to see what they’ll become one day, and if those images are positive, it raises their self identity to another level.”

King hopes that by reaching his young black boys early, he’ll be able to help them build a strong educational foundation that will allow them to buck another troubling trend: the low number of African American males entering and graduating from college. A recent report from the Department of Education showed that males are now a distinct minority on campus–even at historically black colleges and universities.

“Its an honor for me to be here with them. I feel like I’m a part of a revolution in a sense because we get to see the future leaders of tomorrow starting right here. I think at Bishop Walker School, we really believe in our boys and we really believe that they can be anything that they want to be.”

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Filed under: Black in America • Education • Gender • Race • Who we are
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Brazl

    Hello all!Courtney RosvoldSir John A. Macdonald Junior HighCalgary, ABI am attaching a link to my Power Point about some presecsos for the ELA classroom around reading, writing, etc My session is for elementary teachers but these presecsos are the same for all grade levels and I use them regularly at the junior high level.Happy teaching!

    November 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bakos

    In my experience with SI, lautclay no One of my teachers knew I cut and she didn't tell anybody because she knew I'd trusted her enough to say the truth and she'd completely lose that if she told. I also made a huge argument for why it would make it worse if my parents were told. I ended up going to my guidance counselor on my own a short while after that, though.As for teachers lautclay noticing cuts and bruises, though, one thing I've found is that I really did not have to hide them at school unless they were extremely serious/obviously self-inflicted. Even if it's pretty bad damage, if I kept the bruises on my lower arms, you know, places that get hurt from sports, etc, they tend not to comment because it's probably an accident. But if it's a cluster of cuts, that just screams SI, and you will get a comment if they notice. (Noticing is another story. I kept my head down and my arms under my table all through class, and nobody noticed me.) Honestly I think it depends on the teacher and also your behavior in that class. If a sudden change in your grades or behavior happens alongside injuries, that might make them more likely to notice.

    April 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 1stworlder

    Only around 1/2 of black males graduate HS. 28% of voting age black males get convicted of felonies in their lifetime. There are limits to the crimes you can be convicted of and some proffesional boards look at anything members may have been charged with. Even Ophra didnt want black males in the school she founded.
    So you are looking for a college educated black male with no criminal record, to work in a lower pay scale of college degrees. Good luck with that as 80+% black Detriot has a 47% functional illiteracy rate.

    March 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ken-Oh

    During junior year of high school, my English literature teacher was a black male. I can honestly say that he was the best English lit. teacher I have ever had the pleasure of studying under.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. john

    It is often cited that there are more black men in prison than in college. Perhaps they should begin educating some of the prisoners to become teachers; if that is where more of the black men are.

    March 3, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • 1stworlder

      Thats due to the fact you dont need much as high of an IQ to go to prison as it does to graduate high school. Keep in mind Oprah didnt want black males in her private school in africa

      March 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |

    say w e t b a c k are you on another comment section hllering viva mexico, listen psychopath nobody is listening to that guacamole bs that's spurting from your mouth. when Romney gets elected maybe you will go back home. I tell you what this is what the U.S. will do for you, we will give you 15lbs of beans, 15lbs of flour, and 15lbs of rice. And to top it off we will give you some choice meat, you can go to any animal shelter and pick you out 2 dogs (2 per family) and that will be your choice meat. After that GTFO across the border.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. B

    Great, now the Department of Education is racist. Should we also waste tax dollars on trying to get more Hispanics into the NBA too? If race is irrelevant then why can't the liberals stop their continual focus on it. They have to look at everything in racial terms and it's disgusting.

    March 1, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    This story, along with some other events that occurred over the course of the day, has pushed me over the edge.

    I have decided to go back to school and pursue a degree in elementary education.

    Give yourself five points.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil in Oregon

      If you aren't being sarcastic, I applaud your decision.

      March 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • Chris

        I'm absolutely serious. Thank you.

        March 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christie

      I changed careers last fall and became a special education teacher. It will be a challenge sometimes but you will never regret it, Chris. Best of luck.

      March 3, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. k

    Just because there are less black male teaches does not mean it's a problem, it's just the way the trends are playing out. This is similar to people whining about how there are no women... garbage truck drivers or whatever. Maybe they don't want to do it, simply. Carrying over, maybe this is just a trend and in twenty years you'll go years without seeing a white teacher.

    February 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dr. Bell


    Please make sure to read this!. Thanks.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Money

    Our nations has a problem with our consumption culture. Men need to have a certain earning potential to make them more attractive to females and for their own self esteem. Just helping kids alone is not going to pay that mortgage or the car note or buy any of the "extras" in life that you cant really afford on 35K. Women know this and so do men and thats why most men do not choose to enter the teaching profession.

    February 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • HPNIII

      As long as women will work for less than men, any predominantly female occupation will continue to pay less.
      Spoken by an ex-social worker

      February 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tom

        ummmm..nursing. My wife is a nurse and makes over double what I make in a year. Problem is society doesn't change. When I was a nursing assistant is when I met my wife. I had a female coworker (nurse) say to me "why would a nurse date a nursing assistant, you make less money than she does". Women have been fighting for equal rights for years but it is women such as this that set things back. You may not see it but many women refuse to marry someone who makes less than they do so why do you think men would want to take jobs that make more money?

        February 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • India Berlin

        Absolutely right on!

        March 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. D.Ray

    I had one black male teacher from elementary through high school and that was my PE coach in middle school, but I did have my dad, uncles, and grandfather in my life and I turned out ok. Black male teachers being needed in the classroom is a symptom of a larger problem and that black men not being fathers in the home. As far as the teaching profession, I taught for 7 years after graduating with an accounting degree and working for a major oil and gas company for 4 years. The most demoralizing thing is knowing you're outperforming your co-workers but the pay scale is simply based on seniority. If it was treated like other professions, where you get raises based on your performance, I think you would see an increase in black male teachers.

    February 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. alice

    Maybe if the government would keep there noses out of our lives then we would have good teachers be they black, white, yellow whatever. Right now students shoot and disrespect teachers. Who wants to be around those little slime balls.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. jake

    After what happened at Miramonte Elementary in Los Angeles, I don't think many parents of any race want male teachers around their young children.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. Larry Moniz

    This who story is a bit disingenuous as FEMALE teachers historically always VASTLY outnumbered male teachers. Until World War II, teaching was nearly exclusively a female occupation. Even today, there are far more female teachers at certain grade levels than men. If 20 percent of all teachers were males and 2 percent were black, that means 10 percent of all male teachers were black, a statistic that closely correlations to the percentage of blacks in certain areas. This is jiust another wonderful non-story from CNN.

    February 24, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Honest Homeboy

      @Larry: Please check your math. Let's assume there exist 100 overall teachers. If twenty percent of teachers are males and two percent of such males were black, then only ONE teacher out of those 20 (and hence, only one out of the original 100), would be a black male. That, my friend, is a crisis when you consider that the majority of public school children in most major cities are minorities....

      February 29, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  16. Jean Herve

    Great work.. Keep it up you are not alone..

    February 24, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  17. paul

    I am a black male teacher teacher in a predominantly white school district. I began my career in Baltimore City but became disenchanted with all of the internal politics and squabbling I saw within my assigned school. My advice to anyone entering the teaching profession is to make sure you really want to teach. Whether one is white, black, or Spanish, it is important that the desire to teach is present within. It is also important to note that teachers work extremely hard. The hours are long and the preparation can be brutal; however, in order to meet the varying needs of one's students a strong work ethic is needed. Moreover, teachers are constantly in the throes of professional development in order to hone their skills and meet the needs of their diverse student populations. Though I teach in a mostly white school district, the students come from suburbia, rural areas, as well as city dwellings. There are differences in family educational levels and issues with economic solvency. On many occasions I find myself wearing several different hats: minister, father, social worker, big brother, etc. So you see teaching is more than a job; it is a calling. Whoever enters the sacred profession of teaching should not do so lightly.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Moniz

      Why do teachers always claim their profession is harder than others when they put in fewer hours per day and only work, at best, nine months per year? They should try 11-1/2 months per year at 40+ hours per week and few or no benefits.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
      • John


        February 24, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
      • Karyn

        Larry, if teaching is so easy, and such a cake job, why don't you do it?

        February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
      • martin

        I'll go ahead and take this one, clearly Larry is a moron with no common sense. Do you read, or just comment and throw up whatever comes out of your mouth. I dont beleive he said it was" hard" Its clear that he said he "wears alot of hats" and states that its more than a job, there is lots of preperation and feels you really have to want to teach. Just because school is out at 2pm doesnt mean they dont work a full day, you take work home with you, and also stay after class to prepare. no common sense Larry?

        February 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • Randi

        Larry, I don't know if you were just trying to engender discussion or if you believe what you wrote. I am a teacher and I work many hours per day. My day often begins well before 7am and I usually stay until 4pm. I come in on weekends and I take papers home with me. I often take work projects with me on vacations. I really love what I do, but if I didn't it would be some tough sledding. Maybe you are correct in that not all teachers work harder than other professions, but our profession does need us to love what we do. A factory worker (like my mother) does not need to love the machine she works on, but she does work hard.

        February 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cass

      Larry, have you ever been a teacher? It may be true that many teachers are actively teaching kids in classrooms for fewer hours than 9-5, but don't forget about the parts of their jobs that are invisible to you. When I taught, I got to school 1.5 – 2 hours before the kids to prep each day. In that time, I finalized lesson plans, made copies, sorted marked assignments, wrote schedules, corresponded with parents, and displayed student work. During the day, I taught, tutored kids who needed a hand during their lunch, advised other kids who just needed to talk. After the day ends, it was all about the grading, and if I was lucky, that would only take 2 focused hours, but often much longer. So, let's be generous and take the low end: 1.5 hours of prep (6.30am-8am) + 6 hours of teaching (8am-2pm) + 2 hours of grading. That's pretty much the same as anyone with a 40-hour-per-week job works. But that doesn't even account for a teacher's day, which might include meetings with the full faculty, other teachers, principals, parents, or kids who need extra help or support. It doesn't include required professional development courses, searching for new curricular materials, or curriculum revision - because good teachers are always looking to find better ideas and write better lessons. That's what those summers "off" go towards, too - meetings and self-education and curriculum revision and prep for the coming year. Teachers work HARD. Their schedules might be a little more fluid and prone to change than yours, but yes, we work.

      The next time you get up in the middle of your day to take a smoke break, go out to take a long lunch, or walk around the office because you need 5 minutes, think about what a teacher might be doing at that time.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • whatever

      Paul....I commend you. You sound educated and proud and you are the kind of teacher our kids need. Doesn't matter if you are black, white, hispanic, etc. what matters is you are passionate about teaching and the children. I have had teachers who you could tell loved their jobs and others you could tell couldn't wait until they could retire. Guess which ones made the most impact on my life? The ones who care. My wife has a cousin who is a teacher and echoes what you have said...it is not an easy profession and you must be dedicated to the children or you will not last. Thank you for what you do.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • 1stworlder

      Puss puss, are you too scared to work at a majority black school? Just think you could be a role model at a black majority school. Your presence could lower teen pregnacy and crime.

      March 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  18. misty

    I think all of the candidates care about children, not black children, white children, pink children or even purple children, they care about children. You are racist! Do you think Obama care about children? Nooooo, that is why he hasn't done one thing for them, he doesn't care he just got too many of their parents to vote for him by playing to the black and the poor people; pretending to be the next Mr. King (real man by the way) and you all bought into it. Silly people.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      What are you talking about? Is your post supported by fact? First of all you need to address him as President Obama not Obama. I find that blatantly disrespectful. Secondly, Arne Duncan and President Obama presented Race to the Top. Race to the Top is a pool of funds that states had an opportunity to compete for that would help fund educational initiatives within their states. Several states have competed for and won these grants. Moreover, stimulus monies, though one shot deals, helped many school districts keep and expand on needed resources. Furthermore, many states are being granted waivers that will help them make AYP. President Obama and Arne Duncan recognize the unreasonableness of certain aspects of No Child Left Behind and therefore have become open to offering states waivers of certain NCLB requirements. Education is a shared responsibilty!

      February 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |

    whoever wrote this article is RACIST HATEMONGER

    February 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  20. WhizSr

    Have you heard of the "Call Me Mister" program in South Carolina?

    February 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  21. whatever

    On another note...what has Obama done to increase black men as teachers? What has he done at all to make our schools better? Anything...just one thing..come on.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  22. whatever

    Yep..once again it is white peoples fault that black men don't become teachers. Never mind the 4 years of college that they have to go through after they graduate high school. What is the % of black men that graduate high school? Now take that % and what % want to be teachers? You state that this country bombards our children with sterotypes, discriminatory messages, and racism but your posting alone ends with "become teachers and fight the racist old white men trying to keep us ignorant". Yeah, like that is positive and not racist at all. As a white male I have to hear all the time how awful I am to every minority yet not one person can give me a specific example of what I did. I wanted to be a Physicians Assistant right out of high school. In this state we only have one school that offers that program so I called for information. This is what I got in response on the phone " Are you black...."nope"...are you indian..."nope"...you aren't female I can tell "nope"...are you hispanic..."nope"...that means you are most likely a white male and your chances of getting into this program are basically zero. Why you might ask...because we are looking for people who will work on Indian reservations or in the inner city. Explain to me how that isn't racist but I had nothing I could do since as a white man I don't have the ACLU or Jesse Jackson standing up for me.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • honest abe

      you are a bigot and most likely a republican. the % of black males that graduate from h.s. seems to be high enough to fill a great number of BLACK COLLEGES! caveman! white guys like you are cowards to admit you're racist. there's always something behind your behavior like... some black guy stole your gf, some blk guy beat you up, some black girl beat you up, some black guy boned my mom, etc... etc.... etc.... get over it!

      February 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatever

      Honest Abe...see you are the problem. I have to listen to minorities complain every single day about their situation but as a white male if I voice my complaints I am a bigot and racist..is that right? You see all white people as racist. I have a Bachelors degree in Business and one of my last classes I had to write a paper on black people and their education. I studied many articles and read many books on the topic and the facts are facts. Very few graduate high school and of those very few go on to college. Of those that do go on to college only 36 % graduate. I agree with your statement that there are plenty of black people to fill black colleges but if they don't finish what good does it do?? You my friend are the racist here as I state facts and you just spew that I must be republican and a bigot. Just for your info I voted for Obama and my wife is African American, difference is she knows the difference between people who want to blame others for their situation and those who take responsibility for their actions.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  23. Me

    He's sooo handsome.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |