Across the country, approximately 9 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million teachers are African-American. For African-American males, this rate falls to less than two percent.

At Indiana University of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania colleges and universities, the story is no different. IUP’s education college has an African-American male enrollment of only one percent.

“Our goal over the next three years is to move from one percent African-American males enrolled in education college, to five percent. When you have a diverse teaching population, it’s going to benefit everyone and right now the teaching population, here and around the country, is White and female,” said Robert Millward, a professor of education and coordinator of the school’s doctoral program in administration and leadership studies. “When we talk to kids from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, they haven’t had many African-American male teachers. So we just think this is an important objective.”

On Dec. 14 IUP announced they had received a grant of $361,500 for a program designed to increase the number of African-American males in teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities. The grant from the Heinz Endowments will create a partnership between California University of Pennsylvania, the Community College of Allegheny County, Point Park University and IUP to recruit African-American males into the teaching profession.

“It’s part of the African-American fund that they’re trying to promote various projects to really support African-American males. This one is to try to increase African-American males in colleges of education,” Millward said. “What we’re trying to do, is we’re going to try to do it with the existing funds that schools have so once this grant runs out we will have established the foundation for a program that is sustainable.”

The initiative also partners with Oliver High School, Woodland Hills, Gateway School District, and Wilkinsburg School District, in an effort to reach out to students and educate them about the benefits of the teaching profession. The consortium will also include community members and additional school district will be added each year of the three-year pilot program.

“Early in the ’60s and ’70s, when they desegregated the schools, it was often a one way street, the African-Americans were sent to the all White schools and when this happened, the African-American teachers and principals were let go. So this created an outlook that they couldn’t find jobs in teaching,” Millward said. “Then there’s the outlook, that teaching is a woman’s profession.”

Earlier this month the Pittsburgh Public School District announced they would be eliminating approximately 300 teaching positions. Similar cuts like these, in other areas around the state, have some worried there might not be enough teaching positions to go around.

“Over the next five years, most of the teachers in the baby boomer generation will be retiring. There are also areas in other parts of the country that are experiencing teaching shortages,” Millward said. “So there will be opportunities.”

The program will target students through social media, college-recruiting seminars, and a mentoring program, designed to decrease the Black males dropout rate. Students in the program will participate in seminars designed to enhance their teaching and leadership skills and teachers and counselors will attend seminars to make them aware of the need to encourage African-American students to become teachers.

“When you look at our average here at IUP, we have 14 to 15 percent African-Americans, but only one percent is in teaching. There are more opportunities opening for them in other areas like business,” Millward said. “I think it’s going to take some efforts from the community agencies, the churches, and parents, to change this.  Most teachers in Allegheny County, after 10 years, are making $90,000 to $100,000. So you can make a living teaching and it didn’t start out that way.”

IUP is currently in the third year of the $460,000 IUP Promise Plus initiative, funded by grants from The Heinz Endowments. Their newest  program mirrors other similar initiatives aimed at increasing the number of African-American males in different careers.

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