Arne Duncan on Monday: We need more black men in classrooms

Arne Duncan will be here Monday to talk to Morehouse students about teaching.

Arne Duncan will be here Monday to talk to Morehouse students about teaching. US DOE/photo

Less than 2 percent of the nation’s teachers are black males.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, film director Spike Lee and Congressman John Lewis will try to change that Monday when they appeal to the men of Morehouse College to consider teaching as a career.

In a phone interview Friday, Duncan said the nation’s teacher workforce does not reflect the diversity of its student when only one in 50 teachers is a black male. “This is a national problem,” he said, “and one in which most schools of education have not shown leadership or foresight.”

So, Duncan has been traveling the nation to appeal to students of color “to consider coming back to the community and making a difference.”

Wouldn’t those students or any students, I asked Duncan, be more interested in coming to New York and being Spike Lee?  (Lee is a Morehouse grad.)

“Maybe,” he said, “but I went to Howard University with John Legend who talked about the importance teachers made in his life.  I think it is effective message to hear people like John talk about the role of teachers in his life.”

I told Duncan about a blog comment posted here at Get Schooled from the wife of an African-American male teacher about the pressure on her husband in the school since people expect him to mentor the many fatherless boys.

Isn’t that asking too much of a teacher, to teach kids algebraic equations and how to be a good person?

“It wouldn’t surprise me if her husband was  the only black male in that school,” said Duncan. “We have to make this much more the norm. We need everybody to step up and help. We need more men of color in our schools, especially at the elementary schools.”

He agreed that a single caring adult often can make a difference for a child. I mentioned to Duncan that during a speech he made in Atlanta, I talked to Kerrie L. Holley,  one of the thousands of South Chicago kids who attended the after-school math and reading program run by Duncan’s no-nonsense mother, Sue.

Holley talked about the role that Duncan’s mother made in his life. He attended her program from age 7 to college, and said Sue Duncan became his second mother. (Sue Duncan opened her educational and recreational after-school program in 1961 and still operates it today as a free service for neighborhood kids.)

Based in San Francisco with IBM, Holley was named an IBM Fellow in 2006, IBM’s highest technical leadership position.  And in 2004, Holley, who used to tutor the sixth grade Arne Duncan in math, was named one of the 50 most important blacks in research science.

Duncan said, that if schools could increase the pool of mentors, drawing from the community as a whole, “mentors who could really get behind that child not at age 15, but at age 5, the impact could be powerful. We know in kindergarten which students are struggling. We don’t have to wait for high school.”

I told the education secretary that Georgia teachers were wary of Race to the Top’s requirement for a teacher performance evaluation system as they don’t think there is a fair way yet to measure performance.

“There are a handful of places around the country where this is being done really well,” he said. “There is not one that is perfect, but the teacher evaluation system is broken.  The status quo is broken. Great teachers don’t get encouraged, and teachers who need improving don’t get support.  A handful of districts are doing this in a thoughtful, creative way in partnership with labor and management working together.”

Duncan said 12 of those places will present their programs at conference in Denver in February being hosted by his department.(Denver is one district, he said, that has made a good start at a teacher evaluation system.)

With $4 billion dollars aimed at improving the nation’s lowest performing schools. Duncan also talked about how those struggling schools are in the process of making fundamental differences, of doing what he called transformational work.

You can see Duncan at Morehouse at noon on Monday. I have not received any word yet on whether his second appearance at Gwinnett’s Meadowcreek High School is open, but will post if the public can attend that event.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

155 comments Add your comment

Linda

January 29th, 2011
9:32 am

Too bad Mr. Duncan didn’t have the opportunity to meet Willam Blackwood, the teacher from Southwest DeKalb.

NWGA teacher

January 29th, 2011
9:39 am

I would love to see community support. Teachers can’t do it all. I work 10-12 hours per day at my teaching job, thereby neglecting my own child. Her grades have dropped. She could certainly use a mentor.

long time educator

January 29th, 2011
9:39 am

I think this is a great idea, but if you read this blog, there is such disrespect and distain for teachers in general, that a smart young person would be crazy to choose teaching. I have spent my life in education and I love so many things about it, but I would advise my own children to do something else, or at least stay away from public schools. The disrespect for teachers and administrators is at an all time high, budgets are being slashed and no one is hiring.

Lee

January 29th, 2011
10:09 am

More of the same old, same old.

The politically correct keep tap dancing around the root cause of the issue with these pie in the sky cures.

“More black men in the classroom.” “Six minutes of segregated time.” “More money – BILLIONS more.” Ad infinitum.

Guess what, years ago, you had black males in the classroom. You had segregated classrooms. You had teachers that “looked like” the students in the classroom. You have spent billions upon billions with your pie in the sky schemes.

All to no avail because you have yet to figure out a way to pour more brain matter into the skull. Sixty years since Brown vs Board and you still have the black/white achievement gap and you still deny the disparate IQ’s between the races.

“We know in kindergarten which students are struggling…”

Yes, you do. Actually, you probably know within the first nine weeks, but what do you do about it?

You push students along until one day, they are sitting in a high school classroom although they are functioning on a third grade level.

And you still push them along until one day, they “graduate” and we taxpayers have to hire somebody to help them fill out the application to receive welfare and food stamps.

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long time educator

January 29th, 2011
10:43 am

Lee, If there is a disparity, it is about family values; not IQ differences. Many lower socio-economic white children fall into this same category. I have seen both white and black poor children succeed if their families value education. And I have seen children from middle class homes fail if the children are allowed to decide if they will do homework or obey rules and the parents defend them. There are differences in IQ test scores among individuals within all cultural groups, but from my experience, an extremely high IQ is not necessary to succeed in school or life. If the family teaches the value of education and the child has average intelligence and tries, he or she will succeed. It is not about race.

drew (former teacher)

January 29th, 2011
10:52 am

“…a single caring adult often can make a difference for a child.”

Yeah, and in my opinion the color of that “caring adult’s” skin makes little difference.

===============

“Duncan said, that if schools could increase the pool of mentors, drawing from the community as a whole, “mentors who could really get behind that child not at age 15, but at age 5, the impact could be powerful.”

Yeah, and if frogs had wings….he’s right, though…some one’s got to do the parents’ jobs for them. Good luck drawing capable mentors from the community.

change

January 29th, 2011
11:00 am

$$$$$$ Can someone investigate how much money is spent on Gateway tests in Gwinnett County? Test, time, empoyees, student time focused on passing or retaking these tests.
Classroom student/teacher ratio continues to climb, but the Gateway stays. When is enough Enough?
Save money and teacher jobs.
Obviously, the gateway is more important than graduation coaches and teacher jobs according to Gwinnett administration.
This should be as big a scandle as the cheating in Atlanta and Dekalb.
It is time to know the real cost of Gateway and to students and faculty.

yes but...

January 29th, 2011
11:00 am

The fabulous young black teachers at our school are now currently retraining themselves or trying to figure out how to get into a performing school. They see the writing on the wall……..so perhaps Duncan could address this issue before he goes recruiting. How do we keep the great teachers we have especially our African-American ones?

And don’t tell me merit pay…these teachers are exhausted and discouraged. I don’t think merit pay matters especially as they will likely never see it because of circumstances out of their control.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

January 29th, 2011
11:08 am

@ long time teacher: I agree completely with what you say, as I came from a “poor white family,” and had many close friends in the same circumstances. A little adult encouragement – a little ‘attention’- goes a long ways. Personally, I think there needs to be pushed to the point of headache that we need more black men in the *homes*- that happens, you’ll get them in the schools. Sorry to have to state the obvious, but if you come from “disadvantaged” circumstances, you will, yes, have to work harder, probably for your entire life, than someone who’s born into wealth. That said, I’m well over 50 and a lot of the kids I grew up with in more economically favored families are not generally doing so well: it seems the struggles I learned to accept (and I didn’t take them up willingly, at first) made me a bit more fit for a life filled with adapting to circumstances. Plenty of adults told me what I needed to hear as a kid; it was only with finding that “my way” led to the highway did I become willing to be open-minded to hard work and honest effort. Any person of any race can teach that, but only from their own experience. Without that experience, that testimony has no credibility, and the kids pick up on that right quick (That’s why all those “Doctors” in the various school administrations have no positive effect on behavior or aspirations of skeptical students).

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 29th, 2011
11:22 am

Surely many of our students need more male teachers and more male mentors.

Recruiting good men to be teachers and mentors will meet some of our kids’ need for manly attention and example.

But an even more pressing need for many of our students is a present and engaged father.

How might we motivate many males to recognize and “man up to” their duties as fathers?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 29th, 2011
11:31 am

Lee

January 29th, 2011
11:37 am

@LongTime, of course there are low IQ whites and high IQ blacks. It’s called a statistical normal distribution. Here is a good primer on the subject:

http://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/04/26/9530.aspx

Ability and attitude are probably the two most important factors in attaining an education. The politically correct discount the importance of IQ on the ability side of the equation and our schools have suffered the consequences.

long time educator

January 29th, 2011
11:42 am

Lee,
If it boils down to ability and attitude and ability is given and attitude is the only variable you have any control over, you focus on attitude. To do otherwise would be foolish.

Kah

January 29th, 2011
11:55 am

How about making the big CEOs go to the classrooms and exchange salaries with the teacher for awhile. Some serious will be made. Most AA males are only interested in teaching if sports and or coaching is involved. In order to get the AA males to become teachers, they must graduate fro high school and college first.
Amen to the comments from”long time educator” . It is a shame to see the comments from “NWGA” in that her own child is “suffering” because this “teacher-parent” is exhausted.
When I mentioned to my own daughter about choosing the field of teaching about 6 years ago, she told me “no” and she had some information as a “8th” grader to support her decision. Heading her list was the low salary, lack of respect, politics, long hours. She is now a senior in college majoring in computer engineering and made more money working an internship in engineering this year than I make working in a non-teaching role for a school system. Grant you, I am a career changer to education but I came to this field degreed, with lots of corporate experience and countless hours of school volunteer work whereby I wore many hats: worked car pool, tutor students, taught students multiplication facts, worked in lunch room, served in various roles with PTAs, made copies for teachers, laminated stuff, made file folder games, worked with small groups, ran to the store to buy clothes for children that needed them, combed hair, washes faces, changed diapers, used my money to buy and buy to support these teachers and students and the list goes on and on. It brings tears to my eyes that teachers do not get the respect and pay that is deserved and even sadder that I am about to get a masters in special education as a career changer. Part of me says, I should have stayed in corporate America but I made the change to help my only child who diagnosed with a disability. Now she is a successful college student in the STEM field. Kudos to all of our teachers. I do not care how and where an individual got their education whether public school, private school, home school, boarding school, there were teachers involved(paid and unpaid). I think I will spend the rest of my life bringing honor and respect to this profession and continue to thank “teachers” for choosing to “touch lives forever”…. Rah Rah for teachers….

Kah

January 29th, 2011
12:01 pm

So sorry…corrections for my last posting…meant :”Something serious” in reference to the CEO’s in the classroom and …corrections: AA males must from high school and college first…

Helena

January 29th, 2011
12:10 pm

I’m lucky to teach in a MS with an above-average number of male teachers (both black and white) on our faculty, and I would *love* to see even more in the classroom. But given all the paranoia in society these days, I can’t really blame prospective male teachers from reconsidering, especially in the early grades. We’ve created such an air of suspicion around men working with very young children. I’d bet that 99% of male teachers are honorable, morally upright people, but all it takes is that one bad apple for others to cast aspersions on all of them. One of the 8th grade teachers at my school said that he’s constantly vigilant not to say anything that could possibly be construed as a “come on” to his female students. I’ve even heard parents of elementary schoolers in my community and church admit that although they “support” having more male teachers in their classroom, they just don’t think men “belong” in K-3 because “what if something happens?” Female teachers certainly have similar pressures — my admins have told us not to even pat a student’s shoulder in encouragement — but there’s such an unspoken air of suspicion around many male teachers. Obviously, parents and schools need to be vigilant because abuse does happen in rare cases, but I must say that I can’t really blame prospective male teachers who choose another career because they don’t want the world to constantly fear they’ll behave inappropriately or even illegally.

long time educator

January 29th, 2011
12:12 pm

Kah,
I applaud you for choosing to give your life to special education students; you will touch their lives and their families’ lives forever. Special education teachers are the kindest, most giving people I know. I am still an educator for all the reasons you named, but young people do need to know going in that teaching has become a very rough road and to succeed, they will need to be self-directed, intrinsically motivated and in a “Peace Corps” frame of mind.

ScienceTeacher671

January 29th, 2011
12:21 pm

We also need more black males in the homes, providing for their families and raising their children. Bill Cosby’s been saying it for years.

drew (former teacher)

January 29th, 2011
12:26 pm

“How might we motivate many males to recognize and “man up to” their duties as fathers?”

Thank you Dr. Spinks…that is the $10,000.00 question? Unfortunately, there is no force motivating fathers (or mothers, for that matter) to “man-up” and raise their children responsibly. There is no longer any social stigma attached to being an absentee father. And Arne Duncan can go on about the need for mentors (mentors = substitute parents), and more black male teachers, until he’s blue in the face, but all he’s doing is dancing around the root issue: lack of parental responsibility. This is not an “educational” problem…it’s a societal problem, and one we didn’t have 40-50 years ago when most parents, black and white, understood the importance of education.

I worked for several years in a metro Atlanta alternative school. I would often wonder: How in the world did these students get like this? Many times, meeting their parents (or parent…usually a single mother), answered that question.

Folks, it begins and ends with the family; mentors are good, but they’re simply a band-aid…there is no substitute for good parenting. And unfortunately for our young people, good parenting cannot be legislated, or outsourced. But that reality has no place for those who believe schools exist, not only educate children, but to raise them as well. And many parents are more than happy to have the schools do this…after all, they have more important things to do.

ScienceTeacher671

January 29th, 2011
12:29 pm

I’m just so tired of schools being expected to solve all of society’s problems. Of course, it has been that way since public schools began, but still…

Top School

January 29th, 2011
12:29 pm

http://www.alliancetheatre.org/en/Our-Plays/Now-Playing/Bring-It-On.aspx

ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Musical Top Girl meets Top School-Cross the Line with rezoning and redistricting, North vs. South, Awards, Faking your way to the TOP, and the political power of the board members. BRING IT ON captures the challenges of APS and Dekalb schools. The perfect combination of elementary/high school drama on the NORTHSIDE of Atlanta. Story told by my friends. Jackson school has crossed the line

Lee

January 29th, 2011
12:38 pm

@Longtime, and I think it foolish to place the future valedictorian and a low ability student in the same classroom and expect them to learn in the same manner and at the same pace.

But that is what our schools do for the first eight years or so of a student’s education. It is only in high school that they can begin to segregate by ability by enrolling in A/P, Honors, College Prep, Vocational, etc, etc, classes.

Too little, too late, IMHO.

drew (former teacher)

January 29th, 2011
12:48 pm

“I’m just so tired of schools being expected to solve all of society’s problems. Of course, it has been that way since public schools began, but still…”

ScienceTeacher…it wasn’t always that way, but it’s definitely “become” that way. Any societal problems that can’t be solve by the appropriate institution (usually the family), gets dumped on the schools. Used to be schools existed to educate…now they also have to transport, feed, mentor, counsel, etc.. And it gets worse every year.

frankly

January 29th, 2011
12:53 pm

FORGET SCHOOLS We need more black men in homes, in marriages, raising their children. It is the root cause of so much of the societal ills that plague a large portion of the black community.

Not nearly enough attention has been given ti the evil (that’s right I said EVIL) that social programs have wrought on the black family by making it desirable for woman forgo marriage in favor of government scraps.

Tony

January 29th, 2011
12:57 pm

First, the focus is on the wrong thing. The focus should be on attracting and retaining the BEST TEACHERS into the field. Everyone misses the mark on this. From suggesting merit pay is the way to go, to the idea the “equitable distribution” of effective teachers should be utilized. None of these ideas will get the best teachers into the classrooms and keep them there. It really does not matter whether the teacher is male or female. It does not matter whether the teacher is black, white or any other race. What matters is that the teacher is well equipped with knowledge and ability to teach children the subject matter required. We don’t need to make it any more complicated.

Here are the things we do that run off good teachers -

1. Drown them with meaningless paperwork and methods of “teaching”.
2. Derail their efforts to maintain orderly classrooms where learning can take place by not enforcing good discipline plans.
3. Undermine the importance of high standards by allowing weak parents to make excuses for their children’s lack of academic performance.
4. Develop a media and political system that places the blame for all the social ills that affect student achievement upon the teacher.
5. Continually underfund the education budget so that teachers do not receive the pay and benefits commensurate with the expectations and qualifications placed upon them.
6. Implement ridiculous grading schemes for schools and teachers that over-emphasize one-time tests.

Should I go on?

It’s great that our leaders want to reach out to this group to recruit teachers. However, they must accept the reality that they are pushing the wrong agenda with their currect ideas of “reform.”

Kah

January 29th, 2011
12:58 pm

Thanks “long time educator” for the encouragement…as a mom of a child with a disability..I have truly logged in some hours doing everything humanly possible for my child to succeed and the results have been outstanding…Helena, thank you for the reminder of the “ugly” side to males being in the classroom. I too do not blame males for not choosing the profession for this very reason. This was the first piece of information that I shared with a young AA that I trained last school year in my department. However, I was floored when he told me about his previous work experiences on what some of the females did and said to him while he worked in another large school district in the Atlanta Metro area. I got a “headache” listening to some of the things that he said. It is so amazing how the male educator can be “destroyed” on just hearsay with the females and the females go on leaving their lives carefree. The more I read your posting Helena, the more I am of the mindset to say to the males: if you want to go into education, choose Higher Education or some other field or have millions upon millions of dollars of liability insurance. Being in public education is not worth the risk of adding to the male population in the penal system.

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2011
1:00 pm

irony alert.

Tony

January 29th, 2011
1:00 pm

Wait, I missed one -

7. Continue to allow colleges and university to allow low standards for entry into teacher education programs.

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2011
1:02 pm

God help us all when the gov’t turns to Spike Lee of all people for guidance on education.

no wonder we’re screwed.

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2011
1:04 pm

@ Tony

what, you want smart people to be teachers?
instead of the barely literate?
silly man.

seriously, if we weren’t treated like crap by society, we probably wouldn’t need low standards.

only a fool would choose to go into education at this point in time

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 29th, 2011
1:09 pm

Frankly,

The problem is not exclusively a Black-Dad problem. There are many White Dads who also won’t “man-up to” their paternal responsibilities.

Will we ever get serious about “dead-beat” Dads? and Moms?

KB

January 29th, 2011
1:10 pm

Finding “better” teachers should not be the object; we need to find ways to ensure that our students work harder – from elementary school up! Maybe we need to hire “Tiger” Moms to instill a sense of work-ethic in our students at a young age.

catlady

January 29th, 2011
1:14 pm

And HOW does he plan to increase the number of black males in the classroom? Offer them more money? Give them some sort of incentives to go to college and major in education? How? How?

We also have a dearth of true science-major teachers, especially female in the physical sciences. Many of our girls might aspire if they had role models and mentors. What will he do about that?

KB

January 29th, 2011
1:15 pm

How about a long-term solution: free vasectomies (for any male). Seriously.

the truth

January 29th, 2011
1:19 pm

The first thing we have to do is stop making excuses. Major changes are needed in minority cultures. First, the marriage rate has to increase above 20 percent. To many kids are growing up without dads. Place a value on marriage. Value education more. Sadly, many kids don’t have a strong academic push. You can have a school full of black teachers, but if the structure isn’t there, nothing changes. Oh by the way, I thought we figured out in the 60’s that skin color should not be a factor in hiring. Can’t have it both ways.

ga tech 92

January 29th, 2011
1:20 pm

I’m a fan of teachers and especially good ones and getting rid of the bad ones. I’m not a fan of hiring quotas based on race or sex though…that’s racist and sexist. Let the best teachers teach, regardless of the color of their skin or their gender!

TheRog

January 29th, 2011
1:22 pm

Good luck on finding any men to be teachers with the kind of testing/pay/tenure/evaluation/lack of administrative support baloney that is coming from the so-called “reformers” and politicians. I know I’m counting down the days until I can retire. I would NEVER become a teacher in today’s political climate.

catlady

January 29th, 2011
1:22 pm

BTW, my younger daughter ended up as a math/astrophysics degree-holder, in large part, because of two MALE teachers (both fathers of daughters) who were absolutely convinced that women have a “place” in those disciplines. I don’t think color is the key, but the absolute conviction, expressed every day in every way, that students (male/female/black/white/whatever) are limited by their own actions, rather than having to fit what society thinks they “should” be capable of.

Chris

January 29th, 2011
1:28 pm

Are you kidding? More black mean to teach? Does he not see what poor leaders black people make? APD, Atlanta mayors, Obama, Clayton County Schools, Grady (before a white guy fixed it), DeKalb Schools, etc. There is a reason you don’t see many black Presidents of companies, CEO’s, teachers, doctors, pilots, etc.

Chris

January 29th, 2011
1:28 pm

men, not mean.

ga tech 92

January 29th, 2011
1:29 pm

Helena – I’ve considered becoming a math teacher many times. What you described is one of the main reasons I didn’t do it. Also the general perseption that somehow it’s “if you can’t do, teach”. Also the BS politics that keep teachers from being able to really teach and the kids rule the room in ways that wasn’t the case 20-30 years ago.

the truth

January 29th, 2011
1:29 pm

You can’t have a criminal record and teach. Maybe we should take shows like gangland, locked up, 16 and
pregnant and skins off TV. Kids are being poisoned with that trash. Don’t make the criminal lifestyle cool to kids. Maybe we should consider other children than just blacks sometimes. Why do they score lower than Hispanic kids that also come from poverty and have a language barrier. Blacks have to make changess more than excuses or nothing will change.

Toto: Exposing naked body scanners...

January 29th, 2011
1:44 pm

HEADS UP AT HARTSFIELD:
I look forward to Arne Duncan having to pass through the NOW REQUIRED naked body scanner! A LITTLE DOSE OF BACK SCATTER RADIATION NEVER HURT NOBODY! According to an eye witness account, the DOMESTIC FLIGHT security now herds ALL passengers through what appears to be a metal detector….BUT IT IS REALLY THE BODY SCANNER! No option is given to avoid it for a pat down. I HOPE OLE’ ARNE DOESN’T HAVE A PACEMAKER OR ARTIFICIAL HIP. He just might get zapped REAL GOOD!

ARNE GO HOME AND TAKE THOSE DAM* NAKED BODY SCANNERS WITH YOU. I’M SURE BIG SIS COULD USE THEM FOR A TANNING BED!

ARNE GO HOME!
BIG SIS GO HOME!
OBAMA GO HOME TO WHEREVER YOU ARE FROM!

tim

January 29th, 2011
1:45 pm

Ho Hum……ANOTHER column on NEEDING MORE BLACK THIS or BLACK THAT……

More black men need to LEARN before they TEACH.

C.Tucker

January 29th, 2011
1:46 pm

That’s a joke…right?

Aquagirl

January 29th, 2011
1:53 pm

If we want more black men available to teach, maybe we could stop locking them all up for selling drugs to willing white people.

ABC

January 29th, 2011
1:56 pm

Maybe if more AA men stayed around to raise their children none of this would be an issue. And I blame AA women just as much for this problem.

Chris

January 29th, 2011
1:59 pm

Aquagirl are you that big of a moron? Just as many black people do drugs as white. At least white people don’t kill everyone, rob stores, sell drugs, etc. Pathetic thugs. This world would be a much better place without you people.

SSTeacher

January 29th, 2011
2:21 pm

The more I read about this guy, the more of a swindler and panderer he seems to me. The way he is treating current teachers (of any color) in an oppressive and disrespectful manner, why would a minority male seek to be under the rule of this man of no color?