Nonprofit to Hire 1,000 Black Teachers

Teacher looking over students work in the classroom

Urban Teachers, a national teacher preparation collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Education, says it will invest $25 million to place 1,000 black teachers in three U.S. cities (Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Dallas) by 2023. This year alone, Urban Teachers enrolled nearly 300 teachers, with more than 60 percent identifying as persons of color.

“This means doubling down on our mission to accelerate individual student achievement and disrupt systems of racial and socioeconomic inequity,” says Peter Shulman, chief executive officer of Urban Teachers. The initiative is made possible by support from Ballmer Group, a charitable foundation started by Steve Ballmer, a former CEO of Microsoft, and his wife, Connie.

Urban Teachers was started in 2009 with the goal of developing a new type of program that would recruit highly talented and motivated candidates who reflect the demographics of students in traditionally underserved communities to become, and remain, teachers in those areas.

The teacher preparation effort includes a rigorous four-year program that combines a master’s degree from the School of Education with supported residency and teaching experiences in schools. Initially launched in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Urban Teachers has expanded to the Dallas/Fort Worth area as well. To date, Urban Teachers says it has accepted more than 1,500 student-residents in its three location programs, and those students have taught close to 175,500 students in these cities.

Urban Teachers derives some of its philosophy and strategic priorities from research conducted at Johns Hopkins as well. One such study showed that black children who have a black teacher in kindergarten are 13% more likely to attend college. Those who experience being taught by  a black teacher by third grade are 11% more likely. Even more intriguing: Black kids who have two black teachers by third grade are 32% more likely to attend college than those who have no black teachers.

“The role model effect seems to show that having one teacher of the same race is enough to give a student the ambition to achieve,” says co-author Nicholas Papageorge, an associate professor of economics at Johns Hopkins who led the study.

Another study, also led by Papageorge, showed that teachers often hold racial biases that are reflected in their expectations of their black students’ educational performance. White teachers are 30% less likely than black teachers to predict academic success for their black students and 40% less likely to predict those same students will graduate high school.

“A teacher telling a student they’re not smart will weigh heavily on how that student feels about their future and perhaps the effort they put into doing well in school,” Papageorge said.

Urban Teachers says that, currently, four in five U.S. teachers are white women, this for a student population that is more than 50 percent black or Latino. More troubling, the data show that black boys struggle in public education, given conditions where just two percent of the teacher workforce are black men.

With Black Educators Initiative, Urban Teachers hopes to counteract such findings.

“This investment in our teacher preparation model will allow us to combine research-based practices with 10 years of input to effectively recruit, develop, and retain black educators for some of our country’s most deserving students,” Shulman says.