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A perspective on African American Males in Teacher Education Programs

Module by: Sharon Procter. E-mail the author


A Perspective on African American Males in

Teacher Education Programs

Sharon E. Procter

Eastern Michigan University

EDLD 712

Dr. James Berry

November 25, 2012

A Perspective on African American Males in

Teacher Education Programs

The Problem: A Historical Perspective

The disparities in education for Blacks in America have existed since slavery and have been researched and are well documented. Boskin (1966) described the prejudice and discrimination toward Africans during the in the seventeenth century. Englishmen believed that education was crucial to create order and transmit their cultural values. Furthermore, it was necessary for “infidels” and “savages” to be educated in order to rid them of ignorance and make them civil minded. Boskin went on to state those beliefs were in reference to Indians who inhabited the land, not the enslaved Africans who were brought to this land. He further stated while there was legislation regarding the education of Indians, there was no evidence of documented legislative provisions for the education of slaves. In 1765, the Virginia legislature decided to make education mandatory for mulatto, orphan, poor and illegitimate children.

In their investigation, Fultz and Brown (2008) provided a thorough historical perspective on the education of African Americans through the early 20th century. They highlighted the writings of Carter G. Woodson who documented the repressive legislation of the southern states during the beginning of the 19th century that placed firm restrictions of the education and of the slave population. In the northern states, education of African Americans was widely opposed. However, coeducational and single-gender schools were developed with the support of philanthropic societies for Black children. White philanthropist developed schools for Black youth as a means of creating social control to prevent disorderly conduct. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the development of vocational schools for African Americans was the focus.

Over the past fifty years, there has been an increase in the literature outlining the educational disparities in minority communities, especially in regard to African American males. Jackson and Moore (2006) affirmed there is a limited amount of research that addresses the experience of African American males in the educational pipeline, i.e. from pre-kindergarten through the post-secondary level. A considerable amount of research indicates African American males are disproportionately placed in special education classes, considered to be developmentally or learning disabled, or are suspended or expelled from school more than their peers. (Brown, 2011; Jackson & Moore, 2006; National Education Association, 2011; Palmer and Maramba, 2010) In addition, the dropout rate of African American males in K-12 education continues to climb (National Education Association, 2011). A number of scholars support the need for African American male teachers in K-12 education to serve as and role models and mentors. They report minorities represent only a small percentage of the teaching force across the nation (Bianco, Leech, & Mitchell, 2011; Brown, 2011, 2012; Lewis, 2006; Pabon, Anderson, & Kharem, 2011; Smith, Mack, & Akyea, 2004). It is not unusual for students of color to go through their entire K-12 education without ever having a teacher of their same race or of a different minority. (Bianco, Leech, & Mitchell, 2011; Smith, Mack, & Akyea, 2004). The literature also indicates students tend to learn more when they have a personal connection with their teachers (Brown, 2009; Howard, 2012). Howard (2012) studied the impact of relationships of African American male teachers in regard to the academic and identity development of African American male students. The findings revealed positive interactions with some of the teachers in the study allowed the students to develop meaningful relationships that positively impacted their academic success.

High school students frequently do not consider teaching as a career due to their own experiences, negative school environments, and the potential to earn a higher salary in other fields. Also, many male students consider teaching as a more female dominated career (Lewis, 2006; Smith, 2004). In regard to African-American males, Smith (2004) reported lack of career awareness, lack of positive information, and lack of encouragement as barriers for pursing teaching as a career. Smith, Mack, and Akyea (2004) suggested several strategies can influence students to consider teaching as a career: (1) establish Future Teacher Associations in middle school and high school; (2) establish scholarship programs that offer work-study and summer employment opportunities in high schools; (3) encourage successful African American male teachers and educators to visit schools and talk about their experiences as teachers; (4) encourage successful African American male teachers and administrators to mentor high school and college students interested in pursuing a career in teaching; (5) organize activities that convey the employment rewards of a teaching career; (6) establish magnet middle and high schools that focus on teaching as a career; and (7) inform African American community and faith-based organizations about the shortages of Black teachers in minority communities and the career opportunities for African Americans in the field of teaching. Graham and Erwin (2011) conducted a study of high achieving African American male high school students to determine their perception of teaching as a career option. The findings of the study indicated Black males had a negative perception of teaching for a myriad of reasons including low pay, social status, and gender but more importantly, sociohistorical, sociopolitical, and sociocultural issues were revealed.

A number of initiatives have been developed to expose and encourage African American males to consider a career in teaching at the secondary and post-secondary levels (Brown, 2012). Bianco, Leech, & Mitchell (2011) reported their research identified over 250 pre-college teacher recruitment programs exist across the country. One example, the Teacher Cadet Program focuses on recruiting high achieving students of color. The program partners with local universities to provide high school upperclassmen with hands on experiences in teaching. Another program, Project: Gentlemen on the Move (PGOTM) is an intervention program that was developed to support and nurture academic and social excellence in African American male youth. One component of the program is aimed at removing barriers in regard to teachers and their work with Black males. Students and pre-service and veteran teachers are invited to a retreat to have conversations about student and teacher experiences in efforts to develop strategies to improve the academic performance of the students based on the premise if teachers have an understanding of the impact of their teaching practices on African American male students, perhaps barriers in their classrooms can be removed and students’ academic and social performance could improve (Bailey, 2003). A number of scholars have noted other recruitment and retention initiatives in their research and writings such as Men Equipped to Nurture, Call me MISTER (Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models), Recruiting New Teachers, Inc., and Pathways2Teaching (Chmelynski, 2006; Lewis, 2006 ).

Conceptual Framework

Incentivizing students to enroll in teacher education programs can attract African American males to the field of teaching. For instance, at the post-secondary level, a program entitles Urban Community Teachers (UCT) is an initiative that was launched in the School of Education at the City University New York (CUNY) Brooklyn College to recruit and train African American male teachers in urban education. Their goal is to place 100 African American males in urban schools in the local community by 2015 (Pabon, Anderson, & Kharem, 2011).

In order to make significant progress toward improving the educational experiences of African American males from pre-kindergarten through post-secondary education, it is imperative that Black males are recruited and supported in teacher education programs. In addition, if teacher education programs provide training in culturally relevant urban education, African American males could possibly have more meaningful and positive educational experiences, which could lead to decreased drop-out rates, increased high school graduation rates, and higher post-secondary enrollment and completion rates. In addition, positive educational experiences could encourage more Black males to consider teaching as a possible career option.

Based on a review of the literature and knowing the wide-spread disparities in public education in the Detroit metropolitan area, the author of this paper is interested in conducting a qualitative study of African American males enrolled in teacher education programs at two mid-western universities in the Detroit metropolitan area to determine their perspective on their educational experiences, reason(s) for pursuing a career in teaching, and future goals, more specifically, where they plan to teach upon completion of their certification and why. The study could determine if teachers in training have a point of view or are knowledgeable about the educational trends as related to Black males, and whether the teachers in training have any interest in making a positive impact in the educational experiences of African American males, in particular, as they travel through the educational pipeline from elementary to postsecondary education. Finally, it is hopeful that this research will contribute to the discourse of educational scholars who are trying to improve the experiences of all students of color in urban communities nationwide.


Bailey, D. F. (2003). Preparing African-American males for postsecondary options. Journal of Men's Studies, 12(1), 15-15.

Boskin, J. (1966). The origins of American slavery: Education as in index of early differentiation. Journal of Negro Education, 35(2), 125-133.

Brown, A. L. (2009). "Brothers gonna work it out:" Understanding the pedagogic performance of African American male teachers working with African American male students. Urban Review, 41, 416-435. doi: 10.1007/s11256-008-0116-8

Brown, A. L. (2011). Pedagogies of experience: a case of the African-American male teacher. Teaching Education, 22(4), 363-376. doi: 10.1080/10476210.2011.570748

Chmelynski, C. (2005). Getting more men and blacks into teaching. Education Digest, 40-42.

Fultz, M. & Brown, A. (2008). Historical perspectives on African American males as subjects of education policy. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(7), 854-871. doi: 10.1177/0002764207311994

Graham, A. & Erwin, K.D. (2011). “I don’t think black men teach because how they get treated as students”: High-achieving African-American boys’ perception of teaching as a career option. The Journal of Negro Education, 80 (3), 398-436.

Howard, L. C. (2012). The schooling of African-American male students: the role of male teachers and school administrators. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 16(4), 373-389. doi:10.1080/13603116.2011.555093

Jackson, J. F.L. & Moore, III, J. L. (2006). African-American males in education: Endangered or ignored? Teachers College Record, 108(2), 201-205.

Pabon, A. J-M., Anderson, N. S. & Kharem, H. (2011). Minding the gap: Cultivating black male teachers in a time of crisis in urban schools. The Journal of Negro Education, 80(3), 358-367.

Palmer, R. T., & Maramba, D. C. (2011). African-American male achievement: Using a tenet of cirtical theory to explain the African-American male achievement disparity. Education and Urban Society, 43,431-450. doi:10.1177/0013124510380715

Smith, V. G., Mack, F. R-P. & Akyea, S. G. (2004). African-American male honor students' views of teaching as a career choice. Teacher Education Quarterly, 2004, 75-88.

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