Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education hosted a Google Hangout—"Celebrating African American Teachers in the Classroom"—at Howard University in Washington, D.C moderated by Tamron Hall of NBC News. The panel, comprised of African American educators from across the country, discussed the rewards of the teaching profession, the critical role of good teachers, and the challenges they face in preparing students for college and careers. The panel consisted of the Department's Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement; David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; Jemal Graham, a 7th-grade math teacher at Eagle Academy for Young Men in Queens, N.Y.; Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, Howard University, Department of Education and Wesley Baker, a middle-school social studies teacher at KIPP Truth Academy in Dallas, Texas.
The discussion was the first of several events to be hosted by the Department in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) and the country's more than 5 million teachers.
"America has the opportunity to make unprecedented progress in the work for educational excellence and equity for all students," Shelton said, "and African American teachers will continue to play a significant role in informing, shaping and driving education reform. Discussions like this one provide us with an opportunity to hear, directly from the source, what is working and what areas we can improve."
"This Administration is committed to ensuring that all children of color, beginning at pre-kindergarten, have quality teachers, adequate resources, and challenging curricula that prepare them for college and careers in the 21st century," Johns said. "Teachers are a pillar of academic success. There is no substitute for a good teacher, and this week affords us an opportunity to recognize their efforts."
Secretary Duncan and President Obama recognize the need for a more diverse teaching force. Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are African American or Hispanic, but less than 15 percent of teachers are Black or Latino, and less than 2 percent of our nation's teachers are African American males.
The Obama Administration continues to work to strengthen the nation's schools for all students and to close the achievement gap between African American students and their peers.
President Obama recognized many of our nation's education challenges and created Race to the Top with an historic $4.35 billion investment. As a result of that initiative, more than 40 states have raised standards, improved assessments and invested in teachers to ensure that all of our children receive a high-quality education. Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has dramatically increased Pell Grant funding to support an additional 200,000 African American students, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit to ease college costs, and championed bold and comprehensive reform of student loans that will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade.
You can view the archived version of the Hangout at www.youtube.com/usedgov