These 2 groups are helping to put more Black teachers in more diverse schools

By Matt Zalaznick, District Administration

If your district is like many others across the country, your student population is diversifying far more rapidly than your teaching workforce.

To solve that problem, two advocacy organizations have launched new initiatives to put more Black teachers in front of the nation’s classrooms.

“All students benefit from having a Black teacher,” says Ben Ralston, president of the Sachs Foundation, which works to expand educational opportunities for Black communities in Colorado. “There are a number of students who never see a Black educator during their entire education.”

Colorado has 178 school districts, 150 of which do not have a single black teacher. Furthermore, only about 1.5% of teachers in the state are Black, Ralston says.

The Sachs Foundation has partnered with Colorado College on a teacher development program designed to remove barriers that dissuade college students from pursuing careers in education. For example, many first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds choose fields such as business and engineering over teaching because of the future income potential, Ralston says.

Working with the college, the Foundation is now providing scholarships and financial incentives to encourage undergraduates to study education and has just assembled its first cohort of four students.

The foundation will ultimately invest about $100,000 in each participant as they move from college into their careers. This includes funding summer fellowships so teaching students can work in Colorado K-12 classrooms and graduate school scholarships. The foundation also intends to cover the costs of teaching licenses and other certifications.

The foundation also plans to provide $10,000 yearly stipends to graduates who go to work in a Colorado school district. It will also provide funding for teachers to buy classroom materials and participate in professional development.

Research shows that Black students who’ve had a Black teacher in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college—13% more likely if they’ve had one Black teacher in elementary school and over 32% more likely if they’ve had two, according to the Philadelphia-based Center for Black Educator Development.

The impact is even greater for Black males, who, if they have a Black teacher in grades 3-5, are far more likely to consider attending college and far less likely to drop out of high school.

But the public school system needs 280,000 more Black teachers to match the percentage of Black students. While 15% of public school students identify as Black, only 7% of teachers do, according to the Philadelphia-based Center for Black Educator Development.

The organization recently launched the We Need Black Teachers Campaign to raise awareness and encourage more young Black people to become teachers. “We’re working to remind young Black people that education is the backbone of activism—to be a Black educator is an act of resistance and a step towards liberation,” said Sharif El-Mekki, the Center’s founder and CEO.

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