SAN FRANCISCO -- According to the Stanford Graduate School of Education, only 2% of America's teachers are Black men. However, one Bay Area nonprofit organization aims to change this bleak statistic for the better.
Urban Ed Academy is building equity in education by increasing Black male teacher representation in the Bay Area. Their fellowship program, Man the Bay, addresses systemic barriers to recruit and retain teachers.
"There's all kinds of data that suggests, especially for our Black boys in particular, but for our students of color, that if you have teachers that look like them as early as possible, there's all kinds of gains that they have," Jason Muse, a first-grade teacher at George Washington Carver Elementary School in San Francisco, said. "It has all kinds of implications for the achievement gap and then subsequently, wealth gaps, things like that. Education is key to you being able to actualize yourself and life."
In addition to teaching first grade, Muse is a Man the Bay fellow through Urban Ed Academy, an education nonprofit.
Urban Ed Academy was originally founded as a Saturday school to match young boys of color to mentors who look like them. Man the Bay is taking that mission a step further. The cohort's goal is for every student to have a Black male teacher before sixth grade and provide those Black male teachers with wraparound training and support.
"I was deprived of a Black male teacher my entire education until college," Muse continued. "I went to UCLA and I actively sought that out. It was an African American Studies class that I didn't even need for my major."
Randy Seriguchi is the executive director of Urban Ed Academy. He says Man the Bay has 18 fellows between the San Francisco and Oakland Public School Districts and heavily recruits from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
"In order to make it even possible for them to participate as teachers, we have to anchor in a different type of teacher benefit package and for us that meant attacking housing," Seriguchi said.
Urban Ed Academy covers all professional and living expenses for fellows while they go through the four-year program.
"Those stresses distract from attentiveness to the kinds of things that you need to worry about in the classroom," Muse said. "Is my lesson plan thorough so that I can maximize gains for my students? Am I paying attention to which students are falling behind and which students aren't? Am I managing behavior in a way that's conducive to the social-emotional development of the students?"
Muse continued. "All of those things play a role in maximizing what we can do in the classroom. I think what has been a godsend from Urban Ed is they're like, 'You know what, don't worry about your rent, don't worry about utilities, don't worry about those kinds of things. Bring your best self to work every day.'"
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, when Black students have at least one Black teacher by third grade, they're 13%more likely to enroll in college. Two Black teachers? 32% more likely.
For low-income Black boys, their on-time high school graduation rate climbs by almost 40%.
Man the Bay fellows were the only Black men enrolled in SFUSD's credentialing cohort for the 2020-2021 school year. Unlike most Man the Bay fellows who come directly from undergrad, Muse has been teaching for over a decade.
"The conditions of the pandemic have actually made it really difficult for a lot of teachers," Muse said. "A lot of teachers actually left and I was considering it, but this opportunity allowed me to kind of stay where I was in education."
It's clear Muse is needed right where he is. To learn more about Urban Ed Academy or the Man the Bay program, please visit here.