Tuesday, April 10, 2012

TC: Disappearance of Black Teachers

Sealey-Ruiz Co-Edits Special Journal Issue on the Disappearance of Black Teachers


Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Assistant Professor of English Education (TC file photo)
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Assistant Professor of English Education (TC file photo)
By Patricia Lamiell

Would fewer Black male students drop out if more Black men were teaching? The question, which has provoked much discussion and research by educators and academics, is now the focus of a special issue of the prestigious Journal of Negro Education (JNE), guest edited by Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, TC Assistant Professor of English Education. JNE, published by the Howard University School of Education, is considered the leading academic journal of scholarly research concerning Black academia.

The special issue, “Preparing Teachers to Teach Black Students; Preparing Black Students to Become Teachers,” ties the 50-year decline in academic achievement of Black students to the virtual “disappearance of Black teachers, particularly Black males,” according to Sealey-Ruiz and her co-editor, Chance W. Lewis, the Carolyn Grotnes Belk Professor of Urban Education and Policy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the peer-reviewed issue contains a “significant presence of TC faculty scholarship,” Sealey-Ruiz said, noting that TC President Susan Fuhrman has called teacher preparation an important area of focus for the College in the coming years. “I think this issue positions TC's faculty on the pulse of important discussions that are taking place nationally and brings a specific connection to TC's mission and focus for the College.” Sealey-Ruiz added that “the research reported provides strategies and insights for meeting the needs of all students, and therefore it’s for all teachers.” 

With American classrooms becoming ever more diverse, the dearth of Black male teachers has become an especially pressing concern. Last January, the filmmaker Spike Lee (who received TC’s Medal for Distinguished Service in 2010) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for more Black men to join the teaching profession. In a speech at Morehouse College, the only all-male, historically Black college in the country, Duncan said less than two percent of the nation's three million teachers are Black men. More than one million teachers are expected to retire in the next decade, which presents a good opportunity for Black men to help fill those vacancies, Duncan said. 

A section of the special JNE issue titled, “Preparing Teachers to Teach Black Students,” includes pieces written or coauthored by TC faculty members Mariana Souto-Manning, Associate Professor of Education; Christopher Emdin, Assistant Professor of Science Education; Felicia Moore Mensah, Associate Professor of Science Education; Thurman Bridges, (2009 Minority Postdoctoral Fellow), TC alum Darrell C. Hucks; and Sealey-Ruiz, who also collaborated with Lewis on the guest editorial and epilogue for the issue.

The special issue “provides commentary on the causes and consequences of having a majority White and female teaching force in diverse school systems, as well as strategies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion among P-12 teachers and students,” writes JNE Editor-in-chief, Ivory A. Toldson, an education school faculty member at Howard. “It is our hope that this special issue sparks discussion and action among policymakers, educators, and students alike.” The issue was released with “Breaking Barriers 2,” a research report authored by Toldson about the education of Black males.

The shortage of Black male teachers has also caught the notice of Black politicians and lawmakers. In September, Sealey-Ruiz, along with Toldson, was asked to speak on the issue at the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Together with Ernest Morrell, Professor of English Education at TC and the new director of the College’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education, Sealey-Ruiz is also partnering with other universities to promote the issue at next year’s American Educational Research Association in British Columbia, Canada.

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