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Black male educators deserve support. That’s where NABME comes in.

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

We’re failing a key group who may be key to our students’ success: Black male educators.

“Black men are coming into education more than any other demographic,” said Rictor Craig, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Black Male Educators (NABME). “But they are leaving the profession at higher numbers than their white and female peers. That’s cause for pause and soul searching.”

Black men at the front of the classroom and in school leadership benefit everyone, especially young Black men. Research shows that all students benefit academically and socio-emotionally from having Black teachers at their school, and there is a particular benefit to young Black boys from low-income households when they have a Black male educator.

But there’s a mismatch in the diversity of the District’s student population and educator workforce. According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Black males comprised just over 16 percent of citywide public educators in SY2021-2022. Black boys, however, make up an estimated 32 percent of the nearly 96,000 students in DC’s traditional public and public charter schools.

Craig points to the narrative around Black men that biases how they are treated at the beginning of their careers.

“When I talk to these men, I hear that they are getting terminated and not told why, or they’re being given reasons other than the truth,” Craig said of his conversations with Black male educators. “In many professions, not just teaching, Black men are not given the grace and space to learn and grow on the way to getting it right.”

“That sends a very clear message. It’s a spirit-breaker,” he said.

Craig is all too familiar with this experience. In his first year as a school leader, he faced the same casual dismissal of his abilities that many other men of color experienced. Many openly shared that they expected him to fail in his goal to move the charter school up to Tier I status.

But Craig had someone in his corner: Shawn Hardnett. Hardnett, now the leader of Statesmen Academy for Boys PCS, was Craig’s principal coach and mentor. His support kept Craig focused on the goal and helped him defy his skeptics: the school ultimately achieved its Tier I status.

A few years later, as Rictor reflected on how he got where he was, he realized that the support of those who had come before him was essential for his success.

And it was time to ensure he paid it forward.

One day while driving home in the rain, Craig called Hardnett and his friend Joseph Speight to share his realization and bring them together to support the next generation.

“When I was a teacher I taught for six years in Prince George County Public Schools, the only time I saw an instructional leader in my space to give feedback was during formal assessments,” said Speight. “I couldn’t help but this how much more powerful could I have been for the young men I taught if I had the support of a network of accomplished Black male educators, leaders, and peers and didn’t just have to figure it out by myself.”

A day later they were drafting bylaws for the organization that would become NABME.

Today, NABME supports young Black male educators in the District as they grow into outstanding educators and exceptional leaders for all of DC’s students. The organization was founded on the belief that educators must become lifelong learners to provide students with the skills needed to compete in a global society. It provides a wide range of services, including developing high school and undergraduate student interest and awareness in the field of education, training and building the capacity of Black and minority male educators, influencing and contributing to education policies, and promoting the professional advancement of Black and minority male educators.

In 2022, NABME welcomed its first cohort to the Men of Color Leadership Incubator program.

Already supporting leaders

Tre Christopher, the immediate past principal of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, was part of the inaugural cohort.

For him, NABME provided the guidance and feedback he needed to implement a vision for his school.

“As a leader of a small school, you’re often siloed. You must build a network of peers who can support you, and that’s one of the biggest things that NABME provided me,” said Christopher.

In addition to building a network, he appreciated the dedicated strategic planning time with mentors and colleagues to lay out his vision for his school community and the feedback they provided once they saw it in practice.  It all helped ensure that his plans came to fruition. Without the program, Christopher says he simply would have been an “ok” principal.

“It was for sure NABME that catapulted me,” said Christopher, molding him into a better leader and a better mentor for his own teachers, thus continuing the positive cycle of support that helps prepare Black men for the work and keep them in it.

And he recommends it to anyone who is interested in making a difference in education.

“If you want to grow as a Black male in this space and have a lasting impact on every student with whom you interact, NABME allows you to dig deep, understand who you are as a leader, how to lead as a Black male, and build an excellent school.”

Members of NABME’s first cohort (left to right) Charles Williams, Jefferson BuggBey, Shawn Hardnett, Garry Cameron, Rictor Craig, Cameron Hollis and Darryl Groves.

Expanding their reach

Education Forward DC is committed to expanding this work to develop high-potential Black educators and school leaders for the District of Columbia as part of our five-year strategy to create higher quality and higher equity school experiences for students.

Last October, we invested in NABME to enable them to reach more Black educators while continuing to support a pipeline of talent ready to lead schools across DC.

“Our vision is a DC where students starting furthest from opportunity can chart their own path and thrive,” said Bisi Oyedele, CEO of Ed Forward DC. “NABME brings DC closer to that reality by developing great principals and excellent teachers who can create outstanding learning environments and equip students with the tools they need to succeed. We’re proud to invest in growing their work because we know that Black boys—and all students—will benefit from having passionate, high-impact Black teachers and leaders in their school buildings.”

“Working with Ed Forward DC is allowing us to expand to reach more aspiring leaders like Tre,” said Craig. “My hope is that we’ll build a deep talent pool of Black male educators and leaders that feel prepared and inspired in this work, who will stay in this work, and who will lead DC’s education future.”

Speight hopes that students—especially Black boys—will be inspired to be teachers by the Black men NABME supports.

“They’ll take my job. And they’ll do it better.”

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

Every DC student deserves to thrive.