Educators and policymakers want to attract more teachers of color. But one hurdle is that classrooms are still overwhelmingly white and male, according to a 2018 report by The Education Trust. Houston has been trying out new strategies for bringing more men of color into teaching as they pursue their goals
The “here’s how Houston is bringing more men of color into teaching” is a blog post that discusses the reasons why there are fewer men of color in the education profession. The author discusses what makes a good teacher and what can be done to increase the number of men of color.
How many instructors from your K-12 years do you believe had a lasting effect on you?
Kwame Simmons, an urban education specialist, sits in a classroom at Westbury High School in Houston on a Saturday afternoon in early June, conducting a panel discussion as part of the district’s first Men’s Leadership Summit. What is the topic? How can we improve school experiences for young men, particularly young men of color, so that they are more likely to pursue careers in education?
Simmons, a faculty member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), invites the panelists—three educators and two high school students—to raise their hands in response to the important instructors who come to mind. They can’t hold up more than three fingers at a time.
Simmons explains, “We got around a 2.1, 2.2 average.” “And you had anything from 80 to 115 teachers,” says the narrator.
Simmons and several of the dozen other students in the crowd were not surprised by the findings. As a former student and a Black guy, Simmons understands that many Black men have had a difficult time forming good connections with their teachers. Despite being of different generations, the panelists from the Black, Brown, and Latinx communities have comparable experiences that highlight a need for a deeper connection and affinity with the individuals who educate them.
More than 100 additional summit participants spoke about ways to close the gap between students and teachers in classrooms all around the school. They look at mental health assistance, family and community collaborations, the digital gap, racial justice and anti-bias efforts, and professional and technical education as well as peripheral problems that impede or aid aspiring leaders.
Under interim superintendent Grenita Lathan’s leadership, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has spent the last three years focusing on a major educational challenge: how to encourage more men, particularly men of color, to consider entering—and staying in—a mostly white, mostly female profession. The district has developed an ambitious suite of new career-pipeline programs, leadership professional development opportunities, and recruitment-outreach initiatives, including this summit, as a result of this endeavor.
HISD is Texas’ biggest and most diverse school system, with over 196,000 students attending 280 schools, 90 percent of whom are children of color. However, just 26% of the district’s 27,195 workers are men, with approximately 19% identifying as teachers of color. The statistics are even more stark at the state level: just 10% of Texas’ teaching employment is African American, with only 3% of that group being males.
At the national level, the same trends occur. Only 2% of public school instructors in the United States are Black males, and 2% are Latinx men, while school administration is 78 percent white and 54 percent female.
Taking up Historically Difficult Issues
The reasons for the scarcity of male instructors in education are well-known and complicated. Many males of color do not have good connections with schools or instructors, as Simmons’ panel discussion demonstrated. They aren’t usually encouraged to pursue education or informed about available options.
Those who do choose to teach are provided little assistance in terms of establishing circumstances that will encourage them to remain. Teachers of color are more likely to work in low-income schools with less resources. Instructors, particularly black male teachers, are more prone to experience racial microaggressions and social isolation. They are often expected to be disciplinarians without regard for their teaching abilities, and they may be under pressure (both internally and externally) to overwork in order to address long-standing systemic issues.
Undercurrents from the past also play a part. According to researcher Vanessa Siddle Walker, between 30,000 and 50,000 Black and Brown teachers were dismissed as a result of school integration and consolidation attempts after the Supreme Court’s “Brown v. Board” ruling. Even as the disparities in representation continue to widen, those figures have never recovered.
Houston’s officials are adamant about reversing these patterns, and they’re even setting an example for neighboring districts. The Men’s Leadership Summit, which included an in-person event at Westbury and a live stream broadcast to virtual attendees at five school sites, brought together participants around a common goal: to recruit and retain more male teachers from a local pool, as well as provide mentoring support for high school students interested in education. It was the first public push of the district’s efforts, with a keynote speech by school leadership expert Baruti Kafele, but its officials vow it won’t be the last.
Kenneth Brantley II is a character in the film Kenneth Brantley II, the Houston district’s director of schools for the South Area, adds, “We’re creating venues like this summit for individuals to have an open conversation.”
We must be willing to listen without having brittle ears, and we must not have have in mind the path we believe school leadership, school reform, or community development should take. We should be open to hear what people on the ground have to say.
Kenneth Brantley II
A PD Collaboration
According to research, teacher diversity may help children of color feel comfortable and belong, have good learning experiences that lead to higher academic achievement, and envision themselves in comparable professions in the future. According to one research, Black children who had at least one Black teacher in elementary school were 7% more likely to graduate from high school and 13% more likely to attend college than their counterparts who did not.
Regardless of the facts, any new effort to address the problem will need strong leadership. Kenneth Davis, HISD’s South Area Superintendent, says he initially proposed a men’s leadership summit because he knew he’d get Lathan, the district’s interim superintendent, on board. According to Davis, Lathan always brought “a degree of honesty” to systemic issues.
Millard House II, who most recently served as superintendent of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee, would succeed Lathan as district superintendent. He spearheaded similar initiatives to promote diversity among teacher applicants in that role, collaborating with local institutions and paying for interested district employees to get teaching certificates. House wants to extend Houston’s existing efforts to “ratchet up chances for all kids to see individuals like them in the profession,” according to House.
Houston collaborated with ASCD’s Professional Learning Team, which has worked with the district’s office of leadership and teacher development to design and create the summit. Over the past five years, ASCD, the country’s largest organization for K-12 educator professional development, has been a key partner for the district. Weekly discussions on the district’s professional development requirements and the design of customized programs to assist them get there are part of the partnership. The team pulls from a pool of more than 120 academic specialists before matching the district’s knowledge, needs, and ideas to ASCD resources and services.
This effort naturally led to the Men’s Leadership Summit. ASCD faculty like Simmons collaborate with HISD leaders like Lauren Ford is a writer who lives in the United, a senior manager for leadership development, to plan the kinds of follow-up training and skill-building that will benefit each school’s unique group of leaders and build capacity to sustain the work over time, rather than acting as fly-by experts who come in for a day, do a session, and leave.
It was a logical match to invite leadership expert Baruti Kafele as the summit keynote speaker since assistant principals, deans, and teacher specialists in the district’s south region had read his book “Is My School a Better School Because I Lead It?” Simmons, meanwhile, had previously conducted several in-person professional development workshops for Houston principals transitioning into administrative leadership positions, and the district wanted him to return to chair a roundtable at the summit.
As ASCD and we continue to expand in education, I want us to work together to address those needs and difficulties for all of the individuals we serve… We transitioned from utilizing ASCD as a resource to using ASCD as a collaborator in our work.
A Leadership Pipeline at All Levels
A multi-tiered career pipeline program, in addition to public awareness efforts like the summit, is at the heart of the district’s drive to attract and retain more men of color.
Area superintendent Davis concentrated on recruiting more Black and Latinx males as teachers during his first several years as a middle and high school administrator in the district. He developed the Ascending to Men program for male students and the ROSES (Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success) program for young women when he became an assistant superintendent to help instructors build stronger connections with students. Educators from 75 schools accompany kids from third grade through graduation, guiding them through the transition to jobs and college paths even after they graduate. In addition, the district established the “Miles Ahead Scholars” initiative to assist high-achieving young men of color in gaining admission to tier-one schools and institutions.
The district’s most recent “grow your own” project is a collaboration with the Call Me MISTER program at the University of Houston. Through outreach, mentorships, and financial assistance for degree programs, the initiative, which is an official extension of Clemson University’s effort of the same name, seeks to expand the pool of Black and Brown teachers in low-resource schools. The district tries to attract students who have shown an interest in teaching. Call Me MISTER’s program coordinator, Kemonta Jackson, says an explicit aim of the program is to link HISD students—from prospective recruits to current graduates—to the district’s career pathways, so that up-and-coming educators have walked the same hallways as the kids they’ll be teaching.
Meanwhile, Davis and other area superintendents work closely with Angela Milon is a well-known actress., the district’s officer of leadership and teacher development, to enhance the capabilities of male educators currently in the system. Milon’s office seeks out one-time grants, such as the Department of Education’s TSL grant, in collaboration with Houston Community College and the University of Houston, to provide financial support for current paraprofessionals, teachers, and administrators to pursue the certification pathways they need to be qualified for advancement opportunities. District workers may continue working while obtaining their certifications since the district provides flexible course scheduling.
Pathways to Education Support
Instead than simply selling potential male educators on the possibility of progressing into conventional administration roles, district officials emphasize the need of helping them understand the leadership significance and effect of teaching.
We need to shift the narrative around the importance of having men in the classroom.
It’s critical to offer students a sense of “the leadership possibilities that exist right there [in the classroom], so they can understand that getting into administration doesn’t require having a one-track mentality.” But it’s about providing them with those chances, those creative spaces, marketing, and recognizing and sharing those stories about [teachers’] effect on children.”
Simultaneously, if teachers seek chances outside of the classroom, schools must find methods to help them develop “at all levels and in all capacities” inside the public education system, according to Davis.
That includes capitalizing on the talents of summit participants like Tradell Washington, who worked as an HISD bus driver to help pay for college. He discovered how enthusiastic he was about interacting with kids when he picked up and dropped off students every day. As the district’s current area transportation manager, Washington says his work entails much more than ensuring that kids arrive on time; he and other transportation staff are the “first line of defense” for inspiring students before they enter the classroom. He wants to assist leaders in “building, educating, and uniting the next generation” of drivers.
The district’s officials believe that sharing tales about all of the profession’s good aspects, as well as making subtle, systematic improvements for educators of color, would help to broaden the attractiveness of teaching professions to males. At the very least, anybody who attends events like the summit will see the many career paths available in a district, as well as the customized, culturally sensitive methods in which existing leaders of color are ready to assist them, according to Davis.
“I understand that this isn’t a job that always sparkles and gleams,” Ford says. “It’s rare to hear a child say, ‘I want to be a teacher.’ And that’s the part I’m looking forward to instilling in someone else since I never wanted to be one. We haven’t adequately promoted the benefits of education to our youngsters. We simply keep those kinds of tales to ourselves.”
- teacher burnout
- who taught the first teacher