Skip to main content

Education secretary says U.S. needs more minority teachers

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Arne Duncan says students would benefit from strong role models in the classroom
  • He says getting more minority teachers into the mix is key to closing achievement gaps
  • African-American and Latino male teachers make up about 3.5 percent of teachers nationwide

(CNN) -- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Saturday that he plans to recruit more African-American and Latino teachers in a bid to narrow achievement gaps among students.

African-American males make up less than 2 percent of teachers nationwide, Duncan told CNN, while African-American and Latino males -- combined -- represent roughly 3.5 percent of all U.S. teachers.

"That's not a number we can be proud of," Duncan said.

"Because so many of our young men grow up in single parent families, they grow up without a strong male presence in their household. They need to be surrounded by mentors and role models who can help them envision a positive future for themselves," he added.

Earlier this month, he told CNN's "John King, USA" that the dropout rate in African-American and Latino communities in many areas is as high as 50 percent.

"This is economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable," he said then.

"If we want to close achievement gaps, if we want to make sure that many more African-American and Latino male students are graduating rather than dropping out ... having those teachers, having those role models, having those coaches is going to make a huge difference in their lives," Duncan said.

He added he is planning a campaign in the fall to recruit the next generation of teachers.

"We have to get dramatically better and we're committed to doing that," he said.

Separately on Saturday, he told activists at a rally to mark the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech that education is "the civil rights issue of our generation."

He urged people to stop being complacent and "step up" to demand excellence in schools.

CNN's Graham Flanagan contributed to this report.