Why Much-Needed Black Male Teachers are Leaving Education

Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.

I’ve previously discussed how COVID-19 escalated school staffing shortages. Now, we see that one particular group is even more in jeopardy – Black male teachers. With Black professionals making up only 9% of the STEM workforce, this is devastating. Young Black males need representation in the classroom.

COVID-19 Escalated Existing Problems

The lack of Black males in teaching is astounding; they make up only 2% of educators. With many teachers fleeing the workforce due to what the pandemic uncovered and created, the remaining teachers’ roles have expanded even more. The diminished joy, frustration, and burnout is taking a toll, especially among Black male teachers.

Barriers for Black Males to Overcome

Discrimination in the form of punishment, which later could mean jail or prison, is one factor that prevents Black boys from becoming teachers. In addition, according to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, black children disproportionately experience suspension and expulsion as early as preschool, with boys receiving more than 75% of out-of-school suspensions.

Some experts say the root of some of these disparities resulted from integration. The placement of Black students in white schools implied that success and greatness are achieved in predominantly white school environments and directed the best talent and instructional resources to those environments.

Other barriers include low pay, unsupportive working conditions, and feeling like an outsider when no other Black teachers, particularly males.

What the Future Should Look Like

About 15% of students are Black, which means we need to double the Black teacher population at the very least. The effects this could have on our Black students are monumental.

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics found Black boys are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college when taught by at least one Black teacher in elementary school. However, an NCES survey on public school experiences with COVID-19 showed nearly 70% of principals reported to few candidates as the biggest challenge to hiring teachers for the 2022-2023 school year.

How do we bridge this gap? We need more Black teachers as role models for future teachers, but the hiring pool is small. Schools will have to get creative. Maybe this means gathering the Black male teachers in a district together for a Q and A with Black male students. It could mean hiring more Black male school counselors to help students better explore and connect to opportunities.

At the college level, Black male STEM majors need to be made aware of teaching as an opportunity and the great need for it. There also needs to be more competitive pay, benefits, and leadership opportunities to select teaching as a profession over a STEM profession, particularly when it comes to taking care of a family or wanting to start a family. Finally, as supporters and advocates, we must recognize, encourage, and sponsor promising talent. Many young Black boys have never heard, “You’d make a great teacher and, as such, can have a great life.”

The effects of having role models early on are concrete. One study showed that Black students exposed to Black teachers by third grade were 13% more likely to enroll in college. If kids had two Black teachers by third grade, the likelihood of college enrollment jumped to 32%.

Some of us have had firsthand experience in school the profound effect Black male teachers have had on our lives and others as mentors, role models, and coaches inspiring and preparing Black boys and girls to strive for excellence in achievement. It’s not that Black males aren’t interested in becoming teachers. It’s so much more complicated than that. Awareness is the first step. Now that there is data to support what we know, we are beyond step one. There must be bold action and tremendous investment that addresses this disparity.

Image by master1305 on Freepik

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11th Annual State of STEM Education Stakeholder Breakfast

Please join us at The Junior League of Houston from 7:30-9:00 AM