Dear Dr. Hite,
To improve the academic performance and graduation rates of students of color, who now make up more than half of the School District's enrollment, and to keep students from fleeing to other districts or charter schools, one simple strategy does not require huge investment in new curricula, tests, or professional development. And it is particularly relevant to you personally as well to the District organizationally. That strategy is to invest in increasing the number of black men in the District’s teaching ranks.
As we have learned from the remarkable work of Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker and a founder of the Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, black males constitute only 2 percent of teachers across the nation. The Fellowship just had its first national convening of black male teachers in Philadelphia in October. Our District's 5 percent rate is better, but still horribly unfair to the tens of thousands of black male students who constitute a huge percentage of school dropouts and participants in the school-to-prison pipeline.
Recent research shows the positive effects for students of having black teachers:
· Having just one black teacher in grades 3-5 decreased the chance of dropping out for very low-income black boys by almost 40 percent.
· Very low-income black students who had at least one black teacher in 3rd, 4th or 5th grade are 29 percent more likely to be interested in pursuing college.
· When black students have non-black teachers, they are half as likely to be placed in gifted programs as they would be if they have black teachers — even if they have the same scores as white students.
· Black teachers have higher expectations and confidence in black students than white teachers.
You have attended these Black Male Educators Convenings. You have shown Philadelphia’s black male educators that you value their service and their voices. So now I urge you to hire the Fellowship to support the School District in the recruitment and retention of black male teachers from historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions of higher education and to finance teacher certification programs to provide them with the credentials they need to work in the classroom. They can support the educational achievement of all students, especially those for whom school has not been a rewarding experience.
You have the opportunity to create a pipeline of talented black men into our classrooms to replace the school-to-prison pipeline that has been the reality for thousands of black male students for decades.
This could be your living legacy for decades to come.