Michael Booker, principal at Lake Area High College Prep in New Orleans, is a rare breed.
According to the Department of Education, African-American male teachers and administrators are becoming extinct. Only 2 percent of the nation’s 4.8 million teachers are black men.
Bearing that in mind, Booker says he and other African-American male educators have a responsibility to set a positive tone.
“I’m not negating any ethnicity. I just think that we are a disproportionately low number, and African-American males in particular need to go into this profession and think of it as one where they can make a difference in the lives of all children,” he said.
Black male teachers, according to a study by Colorado State University in 2006, not only tend to be firm disciplinarians but also appear to enhance test scores among African-American students, particularly boys.
“When they see us in positions of authority in education, it can motivate them to be better men, be better fathers and do something that is going to take us out of that realm that says, ‘All African-American males are incarcerated, we have children out of wedlock and we don’t take care of business.’ And things of that nature,” Booker said.
Vera Triplett, CEO of the Capital One New Beginnings Charter Schools Network, says the black male educator also has a positive influence on African-American female students.
“I think for the females, the interaction between them and the African-American male being very positive, very professional, very respectful. Sort of seeing that and understanding that this is what you should expect from any sort of relationship that you have with an African-American male,” she said.
Triplett supervises Lake Area High College Prep and three other K-8 schools in New Orleans.
She says finding and recruiting African-American male educators like Booker is extremely difficult nationwide because of low pay, the notion that teaching is a feminine profession, and since fewer black male students are pursuing education degrees.There’s also the political disincentive.
“Your abilities, your prowess as a teacher — judged based on one test given on one day. So, there is a huge disincentive for a population of people who are already feel like they’re under attack, under scrutiny,” Booker said. “So why would I want to put myself under further scrutiny as an African-American male?”
As an incentive, Triplett says education administrators are considering offering special salary packages, especially to those who teach core subjects like science and math.
More importantly, she says, the African-American community must see this as a cause.
“This is a movement. This is not a job. This is not about a pay check. At the end of the day, we will live and die by whether we educate our children,” she said.
Some institutions of higher learning have established programs to attract more black male teachers.
Southern University president Ron Mason has created the Honore’ Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement. The program named for now-retired Army Gen. Russel Honore’ who restored order to the city after Hurricane Katrina, offers free tuition and board to black men graduating from high school who commit to a minimum of two years of teaching in New Orleans public schools.
For more information call 504-286-5107.