WASHINGTON WATCH: Shortage Of African-American Male Teachers (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: Shortage Of African-American Male Teachers (VIDEO)

There are nearly 5 million teachers in this country, and only 2 percent of them are Black men. That’s pretty sad, considering a 2006 Colorado State University study shows that Black, male teachers not only tend to be firm disciplinarians, but also appear to enhance test scores among African-American students – particularly boys.

We’re talking about the need for more Black men to step up and teach with Omari Todd, an educator and senior vice president of the Regional Operations team of Teach for America, also Sean Larry Stevens, a teacher for D.C. Public Schools.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

There are nearly 5 million teachers in this country, and only 2 percent of them are Black men.  That’s pretty sad, considering a 2006 Colorado State University study shows that Black, male teachers not only tend to be firm disciplinarians, but also appear to enhance test scores among African-American students – particularly boys.

We’re talking about the need for more Black men to step up and teach with Omari Todd, an educator and senior vice president of the Regional Operations team of Teach for America, also Sean Larry Stevens, a teacher for D.C. Public Schools.

Well, gents, welcome to the show.

MR. OMARI TODD:  Thanks

MR. SEAN LARRY STEVENS:  Thank you.  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  So, what is the fundamental issue here in terms of trying to get more Black men to be teachers?  Is it a byproduct of low graduation rates and dropouts, fewer Black men going to college and, as a result, not having enough people having a bro- — a – a broad range of majors?  Is that part of the problem here?

MR. TODD:  I think all of those things you named are a part of the problem, and when you look at 40 percent of the jails are filled with African-American males – or, Black males – you know, that’s the problem that we’re combating against – just even as we start talking about how do we recruit more teachers into the teaching profession.

MR. STEVENS:  Yeah, I – I would agree.  I think that another issue is that, even when you – you know, you go to higher levels of – of learning, and those men who are super smart, you know, their families don’t want them to be educators because of the stigma that’s attached with education and, you know, the low pay and everything that comes along with being an educator.

MR. TODD:  I think, when we look at what’s happening today in the education reform movement, you have choices.  You have options, and – when we think about school choice, and we think about different opportunities where, you know, if you look to New Orleans, for example, when Katrina hit New Orleans, you know, the community didn’t just roll over.  They decided that they wanted to create opportunities for teachers to come back to New Orleans, you know, to – to recruit new teachers to New Orleans.  And they have charter schools that are – that are paying.  You know, they have administrators that are, you know, making money so that they can actually have families and not just teach on the traditional track for 20 to –

MR. MARTIN:  Some folks –

MR. TODD:  — 25 years.

MR. MARTIN:  — have also started doing signing bonuses and things along those lines, trying to attract –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — those folks as well.

MR. STEVENS:  Yeah, I – I absolutely agree, and I think so many great teachers are leaving the public school sector and moving into the – the charter school sector, because they are offering those incentis- — incentives and signing bonuses and huge pay for, you know, a teacher who has only maybe taught one, two, or three years; and that’s attracting the mo- — the teachers who really care about education, but also –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. STEVENS:  — care about their kids and their families and their bank accounts.

MR. MARTIN:  Who is doing a great job of really cultivating the next generation of Black, male teachers?  Any particular HBCU?  Any particular school district?  Who out there is really doing something that’s – that – doing it in a smart way?

MR. TODD:  Well, at Teach for America, what we’re doing is we – we’re recruiting on the top 450 college campuses throughout the country.  We’re prioritizing 35 of the historically Black colleges and universities, and this year 5 percent of the applicants to Teach for America identified as Black men – and that’s compared to 2 percent of the national average of the number of Black men in education.  While I don’t think we – we’ve figured it out, I think we’re on the right track, and there’s still more work to do, and we’re committed to doing that.

MR. MARTIN:  In terms of the classroom, are you seeing these men come in and staying, or also growing frustrated and then leaving – because, obviously, you could get them in, but retention is also –

MR. STEVENS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — a critical issue.

MR. STEVENS:  Right.  Yeah, I – I totally agree.  I think that, in my own experience, you know, you – you do get frustrated, you know.  You’re – you’re too busy being, you know, a disciplinarian in the public school system more times and often.  Or, you feel like you have the plight of the Black man, as an educator – you know, to fill the void that a lot of these children coming to our – you know, to our schools with, as being that father figure.

I think that retention is a problem, you know, and it’s because of – of pay.  You – you figure someone like myself – I went to a great college.  I went to, you know, a great grad school; and, you know, I want money, to be quite honest; but I do care about education as well.  I think that if educators went into the system and decided that, even if they’re not going to stay in the classroom; they decided effect change in a positive way in education, still, that I think that’s what we need as well.

MR. TODD:  Well – and I think there’re barriers that exist.  There’re still lots of opportunities for Black men in education that we don’t even know about.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. STEVENS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, I’ll tell you one thing.  I do believe – and, again, nothing against women, but there’s a different role that men –

MR. STEVENS:  Absolutely.  Right.

MR. TODD:  [Chuckles.]  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — play, because I can tell you when I was in school – look.  There were some tough sisters, like Miss Crawford [when] I was in elementary school –

MR. STEVENS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — but I remember when I was at William Holland in Houston, and Mr. Brewer – cats didn’t play with him.

MR. TODD:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And, again, there’s an important role that men play in the classroom when it comes to the whole educational setting, whether it’s discipline, whether it’s dealing with folks with attitude, whether it’s keeping –

MR. TODD:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — folks in check.

MR. TODD:  Right.

MR. STEVENS:  Right.  Absolutely.  And, you know, I – I’m – I’m a math teacher, and I – I have to sometimes teach students how to balance, you know, one-step equations.  At the same time, they’re wondering how to tie a tie; and they’re wondering, you know, how to respect women.  I’m teaching them the correct vernacular they – that they – they should be using around, you know, young ladies.  And it’s — it’s difficult; but, you know, that’s what we’re there for.  There’re just some things that only Black men can teach other Black men.  And so a lot of these students who’re coming without fathers, because the –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. STEVENS:  — large – disproportionate numbers of Black men in – in prisons, you know, we have to fill that void.  You know, it really is on us.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, we – and, look.  We[’ve] got to keep – keep you guys in the system, because I’m – seriously, I[’d] probably body-check a kid.

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  I mean you act a fool with me, it’d be like –

[LAUGHING.]

MR. MARTIN:  — “Oh, seriously?  Okay.”  I’m just letting you know.  I mean I’m glad y’all do what y’all do, ’cause I[’d] probably be in trouble and on TV –

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  — with handcuffs.

All right.  Omari and Sean, we appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

MR. TODD:  Thanks for having us.