Strength in Numbers

Black male educators discuss efforts to boost diversity in teacher workforce

(Photo Left) Conference co-founders Raymond Roy-Pace, Vincent Cobb, Ronald Taylor and Sterling Grimes. (R) Attendees discuss topics raised at “Black Male Educators Convening 6” at Temple. Photos by Sarah J. Glover.

Earlier this month, the “Black Male Educators Convening 6” gathered at Temple University. The sessions were so impassioned and engaging, attendees didn’t want to break for the lunch.

“We had to force them to go to lunch,” said Vincent Cobb, co-founder and CEO of The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, which hosted the event at the Howard Gittis Student Center.

Certainly, there was much for the group of 150, mostly African-American, male educators, parents and community members to discuss.

Having a teacher of the same race can have a positive impact on students in the areas of attendance, test scores and behavior, according to a study released this year by The Institute of Labor Economics. In Tennessee, the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio project — a study funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and conducted by the State Department of Education — concluded that “On average, having had at least one black teacher in grades 3-5 reduces (black) males’ dropout probability by about eight percentage points, effectively halving the black male dropout rate.”

Nationally, black male teachers make up just 2 percent of the public school teacher workforce and just 5 percent in Philadelphia, despite the majority of students in the Philadelphia School District being African-American.

The Fellowship has partnered with the School District of Philadelphia and with local charter school networks to help recruit 1,000 Black male educators by 2025.

They have a stated goal of advancing the development, recruitment and retention of Black male educators throughout Greater Philadelphia. The Fellowship has hosted several convening sessions, where attendees have discussed state of classrooms and efforts to build a more diverse, more effective teacher corps. They often tackle the barriers that prevent more Black men from entering and staying in the teaching profession, and the gathering serves as an opportunity to provide support and guidance to educators.

The May 8th assembly was conducted in an “Edcamp style,” described as organic and participant-driven learning experiences. The day’s attendees introduced, presented and discussed such topics as consensus building, race in the classroom, financial literacy and, particularly, parent engagement.

Said Cobb, “It’s good to get folks in the room generating topics that come from them, to hear directly from them. Each session was fantastic.”

Attendees also heard from special guests Hilary Beard, author of the 2015 NAACP award-winning book, “Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life,” and Wilmon Christian, director of administration at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Study of Race and Equity in Education.


Strength in Numbers
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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