Improving Education of Black Boys Across County

By Kate Ryan 

Black boys are at the top of suspension and expulsion rates and at the bottom of test scores, a Maryland educator said during a summit aimed at improving the experiences and outcomes of Black male students at the state’s public schools.

Dr. Vermelle Greene is a member of the state board of education, and she said that the reason for these numbers is the methods educators have been using in the past simply have not worked.

Greene attended the second-annual summit for a state initiative called Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys.

Teachers and administrators gathered Tuesday at Reservoir High School in Fulton for seminars on subjects ranging from data collection, curriculum, social-emotional supports, and recruiting and retaining educators from diverse backgrounds.

There are 13 schools in Maryland that are piloting the recommendations contained in a task force report on educating Black boys, including Francis Scott Key Middle School and New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Montgomery County, and Catherine T. Reed Elementary in Prince George’s County.

Shannon Miller is the Innovative Pathways Science teacher for Howard County schools. The program assists students to attain their required credits in nontraditional ways, such as credit recovery, evening school and summer school programs.

Wearing a T-shirt that says “Black Teachers Matter,” Miller, who is Black, explained the significance of having a diverse teaching staff for her. It was when a former student in her 10th grade biology class told her she was the first Black teacher he had ever had.

“Representation matters,” Miller said. “Kids need to look in front of that classroom and see people that look like them, that understand them,” adding that it has nothing to do with being divisive, but making every child in the classroom feel that “they can be whatever they want to be.”

Increasing diversity in the classroom has been an issue for many schools, especially with teacher shortages reported across the country. In Maryland, the effort to get more Black teachers into the field becomes tougher.

Maryland’s State Board of Education reported that 5,516 teachers left the field in 2022.

“I’m a little bit concerned and anxious about the start of school year with so many shortages,” Daryl Howard, an equity instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools, said.

Howard said part of the difficulty in recruiting teachers is pay. He gave an example of college roommates. One could be an engineering major, the other, education. Both take out loans to attend college, both get hired, but the engineering major will likely earn double that of the teacher. “That’s not a very attractive option,” for young people considering the field, he said.

“We’re looking to scale up and advance what we’ve already started,” said Longfellow Elementary School Principal Derek Anderson. The Howard County school is one of the schools piloting the task force recommendations.

Kevin Anderson is in his second year as a physical education teacher at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Howard County. He said the school system has a “progressive climate” and he appreciates that.

Not only does Howard County schools “talk the talk” on improving outcome for Black boys, but they also “walk the walk” by providing training and time to exchange experiences.