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.
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.”
“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.