Having a Black Male Teacher is Everything to These Kids and One Group is Working to Make it Happen

I’m grateful that my friend and colleague, Erika Sanzi, wrote about our work at The Fellowship-Black Male Educators for Social Justice. She brings up a great point about our goals.

We are obviously committed to Black children’s education-supporting current and aspiring Black male educators is a part of this. However, all students (and society) will benefit from having a more diverse teachers.  The National Black Male Educators Convening will be held in Philadelphia from Friday, October 13, 2017 – Sunday, October 15, 2017.

You can find Sanzi’s article on her blog page Good School Hunting here.

We already know that students of color do better even if they just one black teacher. A recent study out of Johns Hopkins confirms it.

Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” said co-author Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins. “We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.

But there is something uniquely compelling when we hear from black students themselves about why having teachers who look like them is important. Students here, in this short video clip, explain:

Thankfully, my colleague and friend Sharif El-Mekki is working hard to get more black men into the classroom.

From WAMC in Philadelphia:

Just 2 percent of the 3 million teachers in the U.S. are black males. In Philadelphia, educator Sharif El-Mekki is leading an effort to encourage more black men to pursue careers in education.

While acknowledging it is not the only solution, he says seeing more black men in teaching roles could help close the achievement gap for black boys, who on average struggle more in school, with far lower graduation rates than white boys or girls.

I never had a teacher of color during my K-12 years. Not a single one. All my teachers looked like me and the people in my family. White. The flip side of my familiarity with the way my teachers looked is that the Black students in my classes NEVER had a teacher who looked like them. Never had a teacher who could talk about racism and segregation and civil rights from the perspective of someone who had actually lived it, experienced it, and felt it.

The truth is, there is an urgency to getting black male educators into the classrooms of black male students. But we would all be better served if our teachers came from diverse backgrounds. I certainly would have appreciated having a few teachers who didn’t look like me and I’m quite sure that the students of color who sat beside me would have appreciated a few teachers that actually did look like them.

To learn more about the groundbreaking work of The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, click here.

APM Reports covers it here too.


Sharif El-Mekki
Sharif El-Mekki
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.


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