Closing the Education Gap With More Black Male Teachers

Two recent programs in Chicago are aimed at increasing the number of Black male teachers in the classroom.
Men of Color in Education (MOCE) is an initiative from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Colleges of Chicago to support men of color in pursuing careers in the education field.
“Those of us who have walked through the door of opportunity have the responsibility to not slam it behind us, but to reach back, grab someone else’s hand, and pull them through too,” Emanuel said in a press release. “The Men of Color in Education initiative is not only vital to providing these students with a strong foundation for their future, it is the beginning of a ripple effect for men of color to continue teaching and mentoring their younger peers for generations to come.”
The initiative, a three-semester program, will be led by men of color in the education field across Chicago who will work with students interested in pursuing education careers. Students can earn a college-level early childhood credential or 15 transfer credits.

“There is a void when it comes to men of color in education, and this unique initiative—which was built by educators and for educators—allows Truman and City Colleges to help fill that need,” said Dr. Shawn Jackson, President of Truman College, which is City Colleges’ center of excellence in education, human and natural sciences. “With an esteemed group of mentors and strong support from CPS and our communities, these students will make up the next wave of minority leaders in education.”
In another program, this fall, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) welcomed six students in its newly formed “Call Me MISTER” program that aims to prepare Black and Latino men as elementary teachers who want to teach in the Chicago Public Schools system.
The program, which stands for “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models” is part of a network currently operating in 31 schools across the country, with UIC serving as the first large urban research institution. The program began at Clemson University in 2000 as a way to increase the pool of available teachers from a broader, more diverse background.
“We have students who go from Head Start to 12th grade and they can say, ‘I’ve never had a Black male teacher,’” said Alfred Tatum, dean of UIC’s College of Education. “They are rarely recruited to be elementary teachers.”
The six students in UIC’s inaugural cohort had to show a deep commitment to want to teach at the elementary level in Chicago public schools. The students, who first had to be accepted into UIC, come primarily from schools with predominant Black and Latino student populations, said Tatum.
“We are really creating a pipeline for these young men to go back to the Chicago public schools and the same neighborhoods where they came from,” Tatum said.
The students, who are pursuing approved programs of study in urban teacher education, will receive full tuition and room and board; an academic and mentoring support system to help ensure their success; a cohort system for social and cultural support; and assistance with job placement. At UIC, the students will live in the same residence hall and serve as a support network for each other.
Barriers for Black Male Teachers
According to Teach for America, a diverse network of individuals working to confront educational inequity through teaching and at every sector of society to create a country free from this injustice, Black male teachers make up only two percent of the total teaching force in the U.S. and tend to experience more barriers to staying in and moving up in the teaching field due to fewer opportunities for mentorship, professional development, and career advancement. Black male teachers also experience feelings of isolation as a result of many times being the only Black male educator on the entire school staff.
It’s a serious issue that’s often talked about and needs to be addressed because the positive impact Black male teachers can have, especially on Black boys, is profound.
Studies have found that when at least one Black teacher is present in the classroom, especially during third through fifth grades, there is a decrease in Black students’ likelihood of dropping out of school later on—particularly among the most economically disadvantaged Black males—and an increase in the likelihood that Black students of both genders will pursue higher education.
MOCE students will pursue an early childhood or education credential at City Colleges, with all classes for students offered at Truman College.
The first group will be comprised of current City Colleges students while the second group will engage Chicagoans interested in obtaining certification.
Students pursuing these tracks will be eligible for the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship to support their pursuit of an early childhood credential at City Colleges. The scholarship will increase access to higher education certification programs across the city in an effort to build a more diverse, trained workforce that meets the needs of the youngest learners across the city.
The third group of students will be current Chicago Public Schools students participating in an early childhood education or education dual enrollment program, which allows them to take coursework at City Colleges for free while they are still in high school.
“We’re working together with our partners to help bolster the pipeline of quality educators who reflect the students they serve, which exemplifies our underlying belief that the strength of our district lies in our diversity,” CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade said. “We must invest in a diverse educator pipeline and by extending our hands as mentors, we can build and empower the leaders of tomorrow.”
All MOCE students will receive guidance and lessons in career-readiness from mentors from the Chicago PK-12 and higher education community, including distinguished Chicago Public Schools principals.
Student participants will also be able to take advantage of an introductory paid internship through One Summer Chicago, and upon completion of initial coursework, a paid externship, also through One Summer Chicago. The program will work with CPS and the Department of Family Support and Services to create additional work-based learning opportunities for the students.
“One Summer Chicago provides more than a job. It gives youth pride, exposing them to mentoring opportunities and teaches them valuable life skills,” said DFSS Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler. “The Men of Color in Education initiative will help to leave a lasting impression through additional work-based learning opportunities for the students, so they can continue to lead a positive and productive life while contributing to our communities.”
According to the Illinois Report Card Data, Black and Latino children make up 17 and 26 percent of the state population in school districts in 2018, while the teacher workforce has only 12 percent of teachers from these two groups. Research completed by the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force found that “increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is connected directly to closing the achievement gap.”
Students who have not yet completed a degree or credential program will be given preference. To learn more about the Men of Color in Education initiative or to apply, students should contact Hollie Ware-Jaye at 773-907-4456 or
Students interested in the program at UIC can find information at:

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