Kwame Griffith is the drum major for an effort to recruit more African-American males into the teaching profession in classrooms across America. He is the senior vice president of regional operations for Teach For America (TFA), a national teacher corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. Yet, the organization he represents has been criticized for its lack of racial diversity among its teacher corps, especially in the District of Columbia.
TFA reports that there are 360 TFA teachers currently working in D.C. public and charter schools. Thirty eight percent, TFA officials said, identify themselves as people of color; and 73 percent of the corps are females. TFA has admitted that the organization has faced challenges in its effort to recruit more African-American teachers, particularly males. Recruitment on HBCU campuses occurs often and throughout the year, but more teachers of color are wanted and Griffith is striving to make a difference.
In a recent editorial in honor of Black History Month, Griffith wrote: "... in our low-income communities where a majority of students are African-American or Latino, we need more outstanding teachers from diverse backgrounds to serve as role models and classroom leaders. This is especially true when it comes to our black boys. Today, only two percent of teachers in this country are black men."
Griffith said that he has seen the "powerful impact African-American male teachers are having on their kids across the country" and he said he knows that African-American male teachers can have a distinct impact on boys who often drop out of school by eighth grade, rarely attend college and often find themselves in the judicial system.
Griffith wrote: ..."While it is going to take a relentless, all-hands-on-deck effort, the problem facing our black boys is 100 percent solvable. Our teachers and principals are absolutely critical players in this solution. At Teach For America, we've seen that our most effective educators and school leaders come from all backgrounds, but when such individuals share the background of their students, they have the potential to have a profound additional impact. It is imperative that more of our successful black men make the challenging and courageous choice to enter the classroom and provide our boys with examples of what is possible."
We couldn't agree more.