HBCUs are leading the way
With a growing number of studies showing the need for Black teachers, Historically Black Colleges and Universities set their sights on recruiting—and retaining—more Black educators.
Author: Kate Moening
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a force in American education. They comprise just 3% of all four-year colleges and universities, but HBCUs produce nearly 20% of all Black college graduates. Their alumni make up half of Black lawyers and doctors and roughly 80% of Black judges.
HBCU grads also include 50% of Black public school teachers. The need for more Black teachers is only increasing, and HBCUs are leading the way in teacher recruitment.
Why do we need more Black teachers?
Students of color feel safer and do better academically in schools where they feel supported and represented. But many schools don’t have faculty who reflect their students: Non-white students are the majority in public schools, but 80% of public school teachers are white.
Studies show Black teachers often have higher expectations of their students of color, and understand their students’ culture and background better than white teachers do.
Black teachers are also less likely to give unnecessary suspensions or expulsions than white educators. They keep students, especially Black boys, safer and more likely to graduate high school. Black boys who have at least one Black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade are far more likely to graduate high school and to want to go to college.
In short, kids need role models who reflect their culture and background—and for the growing number of students of color, that means Black teachers are essential.
How HBCUs recruit more Black teachers
HBCUs are rising to the need with a slew of imaginative, effective ways to recruit, train and support new teachers.
Student support that opens doors
The cost of tuition can be a hurdle for students in educator preparation programs (EPPs). Many Black students feel they simply can’t afford to become a teacher, given the cost of training.
In 2015, HBCU tuition averaged nearly 30% less than that of predominantly white institutions. And while HBCU students tend to have higher loans than their peers at non-HBCU schools, they also report greater financial stability and overall well-being after college.
HBCUs are intentional about creating a nurturing environment for students, especially low-income or first-generation college students. With strong student support, HBCUs can open doors to a teaching career that may have felt out of reach.
Building strong communities
HBCUs approach teacher recruitment with a sense of community and purpose. Many teaching programs emphasize the idea that it matters to be part of the community where you teach, and EPPs model that.
EPP candidates at Morgan State University, for example, have worked with the National Aquarium and NASA to lead K-12 STEM education programs. Howard University students teach local kids through the D.C. Area Writing Project or tuition-free STEM summer programs.
Many HBCUs also fund certificate programs after students have graduated. That means pre-service teachers can stay in one place as they train, and put down roots in a community.
HBCUs also encourage grads to teach where they grew up. Teachers who belong to their school’s community are less likely to have a deficit perspective with their students, because they know their communities and how capable their students really are.
Bringing more Black men into teaching
Students need more Black teachers of all genders, but HBCUs are especially aiming to get more Black men in the field.
Black men make up about 2% of public school teachers, but tools like targeted initiatives and scholarships (such as Alabama A&M University’s Males for Alabama Education Initiative Scholarship) can help change that number.
Project Pipeline Repair is one innovative collaboration between four HBCUs (the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Southern University A&M Baton Rouge, Alcorn State University and Claflin University) and the State Higher Education Officers Association. The program recruits men of color into teaching through skills development, application support and an emphasis on social justice.
Keeping teachers in the field
Getting teachers in the door is one thing, but HBCUs also help their grads avoid early-career burnout.
When pre-service teachers graduate feeling prepared, they’re less likely to leave the field in their early career.
Coppin State University is a leader in hands-on, community-based teacher training. The university runs Coppin Academy High School and manages Rosemont Elementary and Middle School nearby. EPP students must get field experience in one of these public charter schools in order to earn their teaching degree. Candidates start their education careers with both practical skills and strong community bonds.
Structured alumni support
Community is key to helping novice teachers manage the first few years in the profession. Howard University created the Community of Practice program, to give alumni a virtual community for mentorship, advice and support from their peers and former professors.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund also created the Teacher Quality and Retention Program, which offers structured, ongoing mentorship and professional development for recent HBCU teaching grads.
Laying the cornerstones for a stronger future
HBCUs are visionaries in getting more Black teachers into classrooms, and their work helps set Black children up for success: Students are more likely to pursue teaching if they had positive school experiences themselves. As more Black educators enter the field, HBCUs are also planting the seeds for the next generation of teachers.