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African-American Male Principals in Atlanta Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Nov 8th, 2020


While discussing the situation related to the number of African-American male educators and principals working in K-12 public schools in the United States, it is important to note that this number is rather low to address the needs of black students (Yates et al., 2015). This problem can be observed even with the focus on Title I elementary schools in such Southern states as Georgia. Therefore, it is important to review the recent literature on the discussed topic to reveal factors that can influence the number of African-American male educators and principals in public schools located in the Southern states, their leadership, and practices, as well as achievements of African-American elementary students.

Shortage of African-American Male Administrators and Educators in K-12 Public Schools

In spite of researchers and policymakers’ interest in attracting more African-American male educators to K-12 public schools, it is possible to speak about a considerable shortage of male representatives of minority groups performing as teachers, administrators, or superintendents in elementary schools. According to Yates et al. (2015), “while over 44% of all students in America are a minority, only 12-14% of teachers are minorities and less than 2% are African American males” (p. 11). Still, the need for black teachers is accentuated by many researchers, especially while focusing on the situation in the Southern states, and the reason is the necessity of providing role models for young African-American males who study at school (Bristol, 2015; Preston, 2016; Vilson, 2015).

Although the purpose of administrators is to hire more African-American male educators, men of color often do not choose a career in the field of education because of challenges they face at college and at their workplace (Yates et al., 2015). According to Coles-Ritchie and Smith (2017), black educators often report racism as a barrier to developing their teaching career. As it is noted by White (2016), the issue of racism in the educational context cannot be addressed effectively even by the development of diversity programs and initiatives. Therefore, recruitment and retention of African-American male educators and administrators is a challenge for the U.S. educational system.

Academic Achievement of African-American Male Elementary School Students

The shortage of African-American male teachers is discussed by researchers as one of the reasons for the low academic achievements of black male elementary school students. The number of African-American students who participate in programs for talented children is comparably low (Wilson, 2016). Black males who study in the third and fourth grades also demonstrate lower examination results. There are also problems with the development of literacy and mathematics skills (Wilson, 2016). Furthermore, the problem is also in educators’ expectations regarding black students’ achievements. Researchers agree that white teachers can have some biases regarding black students’ abilities, and this aspect can influence their relationships, discipline, and students’ grades (Coles-Ritchie & Smith, 2017; Vilson, 2015). Therefore, the questions of race and gender are important to be discussed in the context of selecting strategies to improve the achievements of black male elementary students. According to Lindsay and Hart (2017), a teacher’s race can play a key role in building strong relationships with students and influencing their learning.

According to Lancellot (2016) and Wilson (2016), achievements of African-American male students often depend not only on race but also on income. As a result, the involvement of more African-American teachers and principals in the field of education can contribute to creating a positive environment for young students’ development and learning. In this context, more attention should be paid to attracting black men to positions of teachers because of their positive impact on the achievements of male students who have problems with their studies (Bristol, 2015; Dumas & Nelson, 2016). Therefore, to improve the academic achievements of African-American students, researchers propose to address the underperformance of black male teachers and superintendents in public schools of the country (Dumas & Nelson, 2016; Scott & Rodriguez, 2015).

The success of African-American Male Educators and Administrators in K-12 Public Schools

The current literature on the topic also provides examples of successful teachers and principals among those men of color who work in K-12 public schools. According to Yates et al. (2015), the key to success is often in African-Americans’ resilience as “the ability to overcome adversity” (p. 12). In the context of their work in Title I elementary schools in the United States, black male leaders often face such challenges as the work with disadvantaged students, behavioral problems, biases, and even violence (Lindsay & Hart, 2017). While following researchers, it is important to note that these leaders’ success depends on their ability to adapt to the situation, change it, and choose appropriate strategies to use in a problematic context (Bonastia, 2016; Yates et al., 2015).

The most successful African-American male educational leaders follow strategies and approaches which have not been studied actively because of challenges associated with the work in these environments (Lancellot, 2016). However, recent studies present the discussion of particular leadership and instructional strategies selected by African-American male educators to work with black students. According to the study results, the success depends on respecting students’ background (Lancellot, 2016), providing the assistance (Preston, 2016), promoting reciprocity (Ross et al., 2016; Vilson, 2015), and focusing on critical care strategies (Wilson, 2016). These approaches are viewed by researchers as important to overcome racism and promote the resilience of black educators in public schools.

Instructional Leadership Practices in Title I Schools in the Southern and Other States

In addition to analyzing individual strategies used by African-American principals and educators in the United States, researchers also pay attention to identifying instructional leadership strategies that are followed in the Southern states of the country. According to Hambacher, Acosta, Bondy, and Ross (2016), teachers working in elementary schools for African Americans succeed when they apply the strategy of “warm demanding” in the context of building trusty relationships with students. Ross et al. (2016) support this idea while paying attention to the importance of applying culture-oriented instructional approaches while working with African-American students. Preston (2016) also states that those teachers who work with black students are expected to demonstrate their understanding of environments in which they cooperate with students.

As a result, instructional leadership practices applied by African-American educators also include techniques to discuss diversity, demonstrate cultural awareness, and decrease the tension (Jett & Cross, 2016). Khalifa, Gooden, and Davis (2016) pay attention to the fact that most practices used by African-American male educators are based on the idea of culturally responsive leadership that is mainly followed by principals in their practice. In her turn, Wilson (2016) concentrates on the role of transformative leadership in schools where the percentage of African-American students is high in order to accentuate the necessity of changing the approach to working with black students while focusing on low expectations.


The literature on the topic of African-American males’ work in public schools of the United States indicates that there is a shortage of black male specialists in elementary schools. Thus, this challenge should be addressed because African-American male educators and principals contribute to improving the academic achievements of black male students who belong to problem groups. Furthermore, the approaches used by African-American educational leaders in their work with students are viewed by researchers as appropriate to address the discussed problem in American schools, including Title I elementary schools in Georgia.


Bonastia, C. (2016). Black leadership and outside allies in Virginia freedom schools. History of Education Quarterly, 56(4), 532-559.

Bristol, T. J. (2015). Teaching boys: Towards a theory of gender-relevant pedagogy. Gender and Education, 27(1), 53-68.

Coles-Ritchie, M., & Smith, R. R. (2017). Taking the risk to engage in race talk: Professional development in elementary schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(2), 172-186.

Dumas, M. J., & Nelson, J. D. (2016). (Re)Imagining black boyhood: Toward a critical framework for educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 86(1), 27-47.

Hambacher, E., Acosta, M. M., Bondy, E., & Ross, D. D. (2016). Elementary preservice teachers as warm demanders in an African American school. The Urban Review, 48(2), 175-197.

Jett, C. C., & Cross, S. B. (2016). Teaching about diversity in black and white: Reflections and recommendations from two teacher educators. The New Educator, 12(2), 131-146.

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Lancellot, M. (2016). Exploring racial integration: Views from an African American, male, former school superintendent. Multicultural Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 177-196.

Lindsay, C. A., & Hart, C. M. (2017). Teacher race and school discipline. Education Next, 17(1), 72-78.

Preston, H. F. (2016). The case for a teacher like me. American Educator, 40(3), 20-22.

Ross, K. M., Nasir, N. I., Givens, J. R., De Royston, M. M., Vakil, S., Madkins, T. C., & Philoxene, D. (2016). “I do this for all of the reasons America doesn’t want me to”: The organic pedagogies of black male instructors. Equity & Excellence in Education, 49(1), 85-99.

Scott, S. V., & Rodriguez, L. F. (2015). “A fly in the ointment”: African American male preservice teachers’ experiences with stereotype threat in teacher education. Urban Education, 50(6), 689-717.

Vilson, J. L. (2015). The need for more teachers of color. American Educator, 39(2), 27-31.

White, T. C. (2016). Teach for America’s paradoxical diversity initiative: Race, policy, and black teacher displacement in urban schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(16), 1-42.

Wilson, C. M. (2016). Enacting critical care and transformative leadership in schools highly impacted by poverty: An African-American principal’s counter narrative. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 19(5), 557-577.

Yates, L., Moore, J., Vairez, M. R., Barber-Freeman, P. T., Ross, W., Parker, W. H., & Bautista, R. (2015). The grit of African American male pre-service teachers. Journal of the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators, 1(2), 11-38.

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