The Crisis in Black Education: Crafting Mirrors Where Kids Can See Themselves

The theme of Black History Month this year is “The Crisis in Black Education.” The scope of the crisis is considerable: Results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress—a test that’s also known as the Nation’s Report Card—show almost no change in the achievement gap between white and black students over the past 50 years. To help unpack the challenges facing African American students, we talked to educators who are tackling this crisis and implementing meaningful solutions.

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter-Shoemaker Campus, a predominantly African American 7th- to 12th-grade school that was recognized by President Barack Obama as an exemplary turnaround school. El-Mekki has been immersed in the challenge of improving black education since he was an elementary student at a Philadelphia Freedom School in the early 1970s. El-Mekki was also a Principal Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan, and he is the founder of Black Male Educators for Social Justice, a fellowship dedicated to supporting and recruiting more African American men into the teaching profession—a critical component, El-Mekki believes, in creating more equitable schools.

We spoke with El-Mekki about his educational background, his priorities as a school leader, and how he plans to inspire more African American males to become teachers.