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Michigan Department of Education approves new route for men of color to become teachers

The state of Michigan developing solutions to address teacher shortage among minority teachers
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 10:38 PM EDT
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BEECHER, Mich. (WJRT) - (05/06/2021) - There’s a troubling trend we’re seeing nationwide: a major teacher shortage that’s grown significantly since the pandemic.

The problem is especially severe among minority teachers, specifically Black men, who are becoming more and more rare in the classroom.

The state is not only recognizing this as a serious issue, but they’re coming up with solutions too.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, Black men make up fewer than 2% of Michigan’s public school teachers in grades K-12. With Black students representing nearly one in every five in public education, education leaders know something has to be done to better reflect the diversity of public school students.

”We do not have one single full-time, African-American male on our roster as far as a teacher. We do have African American males in the form of administrators. We have African American males in the form of coaches. We have African American males in other capacities in the district as well as long-term substitutes,” Dr. Marcus Davenport said.

Davenport is the Superintendent of Beecher Community Schools, where he says close to 90% of the students are Black. He says although race is not the most significant factor of a great educator, it does help establish comfort and trust.

“I do believe that it is significant that students have a representation in their classroom and people that they may visually be able to identify with,” Davenport said.

The Michigan Department of Education is aware of the gaps in the teacher workforce, approving a request from New Paradigm For Education to offer an alternate route for people of color to get their teacher certification. It will give them a full year of working full time in a public school, training and practicing under a certified mentor teacher before taking over a classroom of their own.

“It’s just a huge message that at the state level we recognize we have a problem and we’re seeking to figure out solutions, right? That’s a huge step and very appreciative of the state,” Dr. Curtis Lewis said.

Lewis is the CEO and founder of Black Male Educators Alliance of Michigan, and he hopes the impact will do more than just benefit the students.

”The more diverse we become, the more diverse perspective we have in how we continue to build and grow in the profession, so I think it’s beneficial to students, but it’s beneficial to the profession itself,” Lewis said.

Members of the first-year group will start working next school year. The program’s initial approval lasts for the next five schools years.

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